Grapevine: The inspiring story of Eli Zborowski

Zborowski is a survivor of the Holocaust and one of the key torchbearers of its memory.

ELI ZBOROWSKI and a friend 370 (photo credit: Isaac Harari)
ELI ZBOROWSKI and a friend 370
(photo credit: Isaac Harari)
EARLIER IN the week, the Israeli launch of the book A Life of Leadership: The Life Story of Eli Zborowski – a survivor of the Holocaust and one of the key torchbearers of its memory – took place at Yad Vashem. Speaking emotionally before a packed room in the Yad Vashem Synagogue – where Judaica from destroyed synagogues of Europe are on display – Zborowski’s voice shook as he recalled his parents, Moshe and Zisel, and the role models they were for him.
Zborowski, who was born in Zarki, Poland, found himself as the head of the family when his father, a successful leather merchant, was murdered by the Poles in 1942. Yet it was also Poles who gave a place of refuge to other members of his family. Zborowski was a member of the Jewish Combat Organization, acting as a courier between ghetto fighters and Polish partisans. After the war, he rescued more than 100 orphans and developed a youth village in the Feldafing DP camp.
He subsequently moved to the United States, where he built up a successful career in business and dedicated his life to Holocaust remembrance and education. He established the American Society of Yad Vashem, which he led for 30 years, and through which he raised more than $100 million for Yad Vashem.
“During the darkest days of the Shoah, we all dreamed of Israel. How appropriate that the launch of my memoirs is in Jerusalem,” he said.
Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev noted that at a young age, Zborowski took on the responsibility of caring for his family and that this sense of responsibility is what has constantly motivated him.
“His commitment and mission toward Holocaust remembrance is so deep that he is willing to say, ‘naa’se v’nishma’ – I will do and I will listen,” said Shalev. “It has been his lifelong mission to commemorate the Holocaust.”
Prof. Dina Porat, chief historian of Yad Vashem, Dr. Yitzhak Arad, deputy chairman of the Yad Vashem Council (and formerly chairman of Yad Vashem), Dr. Lilly Naveh, Zborowski’s daughter and Rabbi R. Yehoshua Berman of Bar Ilan University, who is the son of the book’s authors Rochel and George Berman, also spoke of Zborowski’s dedication to commemorating both the Holocaust and the Jewish world that once existed in Europe.
■ JEWS LIVING in the Soviet Union were cut off not only from their religious heritage but also from their history, and did not know nearly enough about the Holocaust outside of the Red Army context. Now, just as they are learning about and practicing Judaism, they are also learning about Holocaust history. This month, 150 Russian-speaking Jewish teachers from around the world and 275 11th-grade students of the “Na’ale” program participated in seminars at Yad Vashem sponsored by the Genesis Foundation. Participants learned about new findings and data that are part of the latest archival acquisitions from CIS countries and that shed new light on the scope of the murder and persecution of Jews in the Former Soviet Union. The seminar included guided tours, during which Yad Vashem experts presented the “quiet revolution” that is taking place at Yad Vashem regarding the Holocaust in the Soviet Union. Speakers included Nathan Eitan, director-general of Yad Vashem, Sana Britavsky, CEO of the Genesis Foundation and Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, amongst others.
During the seminar, the high school students, who are from the FSU and live in Israel within the framework of Na’ale, visited the Holocaust History Museum, the Valley of the Communities and other sites on the Yad Vashem campus.
■ BEZALEL ACADEMY of Arts and Design and the Elovic Family will next week announce the winner of the first Ilana Elovic Bezalel Prize for Painting. The award comprises a grant of $20,000 plus a solo exhibition and catalog at the Bezalel Gallery in Jerusalem in November, 2012. Entries were judged by Prof. Arnon Zuckerman, the outgoing president of Bezalel, Prof. Nahum Tevet, artist and Bezalel faculty member, well-known curator Yigal Zalmona of the Israel Museum, artist Michal Rovner and head of Sotheby’s Israel Rivka Saker. Ilana Elovic, who died in November 2006 after a long and brave battle with cancer, devoted her life to art and worked in various media, including painting, ceramics, glass and jewelry. After her diagnosis in 2001 she began to focus almost exclusively on her art. To honor her memory, her family, headed by Dr. Eugene Elovic, established the Bezalel Prize which will bear her name in perpetuity.
■ THE PRESIDENT of the Federation of National Associations of Ship Brokers and Agents (FONASBA) Chris Papavassiliou came to Israel to toast the Passover holiday with his Israeli colleagues. Papavassiliou is a familiar figure to people in Israel’s shipping industry because his father, Prodromos, a staunch supporter of Israel, was the world’s first agent for ZIM Shipping and is known to Israelis, with whom he has had dealings as “Papa.” His relationship with Israel goes back to the British Mandate period.
“These days when we think of Cyprus, we think of a efforts to find gas,” said Dr. Yoram Sebba, president of the Chamber of Shipping and former chairman of Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. But as far as Israel is concerned, he continued, “we will always have a warm place in our hearts for members of the Papavassiliou family.” When he introduced Chris Papavassiliou as the eldest son of the next generation, Sebba recalled that Papa had met with members of the Joint Distribution Committee, who had told him that the British were trying to prevent Jews, most of them Holocaust survivors, from coming to the Promised Land.
“That’s an ugly thing to do,” said Papa, who promptly joined in the effort to bypass the British, and remained a loyal friend to Israel and the Jews in the years that followed. Everyone knew how strong a Cypriot patriot he was, said Sebba, recalling that in 1974, Papa, then mayor of Famagusta, had faced a black day with the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Israel thought so highly of him, said Sebba, that the defense authorities sent a ship to bring him to safety in Israel until hostilities subsided.
■ IT WAS a double bill at the Tozeret Ha’aretz (made in Israel) banquet hall last week when actor and athlete Oshri Cohen and business mentor Eran Stern each realized a dream. Cohen has long been dreaming about staging his show, “Kaftorim” (Buttons), and Stern, who has successfully mentored scores of business executives, realized his dream of publishing a book about realizing one’s personal and economic potential in a world brimming with opportunities. The book offers what Stern calls “a box of tools” for self-realization. Among those who came to wish one or both of them well were Ninette Taib, Itai Turgeman and Anna Aronov, Danny Shteg, Mickey Geva, Sharon Ayalon, Eldad Ziv, Roni Yudkovich and many other celebrities from the entertainment sphere and the business world.
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