Guiding understanding of the Holocaust

A holocaust survivor recently hosted a 22-member Chinese trade mission, one of whose members had previously been at Yad Vashem.

CHINESE FOREIGN Minister Wang Yi lays a wreath during a ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in December. (photo credit: REUTERS)
CHINESE FOREIGN Minister Wang Yi lays a wreath during a ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in December.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
• Child holocaust survivor Rena Quint, who is a much-in- demand guide at Yad Vashem, often impresses people in groups so much that they invite her to come and tell her story to other groups in other countries, or ask to meet her again in Jerusalem. In the latter case, she frequently invites them to her home.
Within the last month, she had a group of German journalism students who told her that the study of Holocaust history was compulsory in German schools, and that all German youth were made to feel if not guilty for the sins of their grandparents, at least a sense of responsibility – to ensure nothing like the Holocaust ever happens again. More recently, this past Shabbat in fact, she hosted a 22-member Chinese trade mission, one of whose members had previously been at Yad Vashem with another group, and had been so moved by her story of being the sole survivor of her immediate family and having been cared for in the ghettos and camps by a series of surrogate mothers, that he recommended the trade mission leader get in touch with her to ask if it would be possible to meet her.
Quint very rarely refuses such requests, even when they intrude on her Shabbat rest.
The group came bearing a container that included five huge bouquets of different colored roses, and also brought Quint gifts from China. They were all familiar with her story, which has been published in a Chinese brochure on Jewish innovation and intelligence.
The group had been to Yad Vashem the previous day with another guide. Most were familiar with the story of the Holocaust, having learned about it at school, and were proud that many Jewish refugees had found a haven in Shanghai during World War II. Curiously, however, they had never heard of ghettos, and their interpreter had to have the word “ghetto” explained to her in simple terms before she was able to translate it.
Incidentally, at least half of the trade mission members spoke fluent English, even to the extent of not having some of the pronunciation problems that are common to native Chinese. But whenever they spoke, it was in Chinese and through the interpreter – though occasionally they got so caught up in what they were saying, they switched to English momentarily, then back to Chinese.
One, who in the 1980s had been a student in Springfield, Illinois, had been “adopted” by a Jewish woman, who had taken care of the poor young man from China for several years. He told Quint that he wanted to cry – not just because of her story, but because she reminded him so much of the mother who had adopted him and is now deceased. “So we have something in common,” replied Quint, who as a nine-year-old had been adopted by American couple Jacob and Leah Globe, who are also deceased, but gave her such a wonderful life that for many years she did not think about the Holocaust.
That is, until 1981 – when she attended the first World Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, held in Jerusalem. Quint had hoped to find people from her hometown of Piotrkow, who had known her family and might be able to tell her something about them. That didn’t happen, but the gathering awoke a spark of curiosity in her and she went to Poland, finding her birth certificate and her old home.
Quint has returned to Poland several times to lecture to Jewish groups, including those with roots in her hometown. Through someone in Poland who does a lot of research for people seeking information about their roots, she acquired a photograph of her father and a copy of her parents’ marriage certificate, which included a prenuptial agreement.
• Just as a woman’s work is never done, neither is a chief rabbi’s. Between Holocaust Remembrance Day and Independence Day, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau and Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef participated in so many ceremonies together that it was almost as if they were joined at the hip. However, they briefly parted company during the Israel Independence Day ceremony of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, where each delivered an address.
Lau went first and had to leave immediately after completing his speech, apologizing that he had other commitments. Yosef remained and delivered his own address, then stayed until the end of the service, missing the opportunity to see his older sister, Rabbanit Adina Bar-Shalom, light one of the torches to usher in Independence Day.
On the following night, he missed out on seeing her win the Israel Prize, though presumably he will have a chance to see it on YouTube or some other form of social media.
•After 23 years at the helm of the Jerusalem Business Development Company, popularly known by its Hebrew acronym of MATI, Uri Scharf, its founder and CEO, is stepping down and will be succeeded by his deputy Golan Tubi, who has been second-in-command at MATI for the past seven years.
Prior to establishing MATI, Scharf had been in the fashion business, and spent 18 years as part owner and CEO of Scharf Furs, whose former premises in Talpiot have for several years served as the headquarters of the Jerusalem Foundation. While Scharf was engaged in manufacturing fur and leather garments, there was a time when Israel went through a severe austerity period, although as always there were a few people with a lot of money. For them Scharf produced what he called a line of “inconspicuous consumption” reversible fur coats, in that one side comprised a luxury fur, while the other was a poplin raincoat. Women who wanted to wear their mink, fox or nutria coats, but didn’t want to be criticized for doing so, simply turned the coat inside out and wore the raincoat, with the collar as the only visible fur.
Before entering his family’s fur and leather business, Scharf was a journalist with Haaretz for 10 years. He is not leaving MATI per se, and will now become president of the MATI Israel Forum for guiding business development.
• When Cofizz opened on Jerusalem’s Ben-Yehuda Street at the beginning of this year, it was because its three partners – Amir Amsalem and Moshe Mizrahi of Jerusalem, together with Lilach Arazi of Ramat Gan – had been unable to obtain a local franchise from Cofix, where all three had previously worked. They had been under the impression they had reached an agreement with Cofix for the opening of a Jerusalem branch, but the deal fell through. So they decided to wing it alone and opened Cofizz, undercutting the price of coffee-togo of all competitors in the surrounding area. Their enterprise was so successful that they soon opened a second branch on Jaffa Road.
Realizing their mistake in nixing the initial opportunity to open in Jerusalem, Cofix – which created a revolution when it opened in Tel Aviv in September 2013, by discounting everything on its menu to a uniform NIS 5 – decided there must be potential in the capital. And why not? After all, the population of Jerusalem is the highest in the country, and twice that of Tel Aviv. So they opened up just a couple of doors from Cofizz, on the corner of Lunz and Ben-Yehuda streets.
Cofix founder Avi Katz intends to open additional branches in many parts of the city. Soon, regardless of whether Jerusalemites patronize Cofizz or Cofix, a cup of coffee will cost less than a bottle of mineral water.
• “Ethical Wisdom on Decision-Making” is the topic for the next lecture of Nachama (Englishspeaking chapter) of Hadassah-Israel. Rabbis Miriam Berkowitz and Valerie Stessin, founders of Kashouvot: Advancing Pastoral Care in Israel, will discuss pastoral care and lead a discussion on aging with dignity, choices and purposes for ourselves and our loved ones. These include what people want done when they can no longer think for themselves, how they want to be cared for, what they want to leave behind, and many other issues that trouble people as they enter the twilight of their lives, or watch their parents moving in that direction.
The date is Thursday, May 22 at 7:30 p.m., and the venue is Ramot Zion Synagogue, 68 Bar Kochba Street, French Hill. The entrance fee is NIS 18, with proceeds going to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem. Women attending the lecture are asked to bring any sample cosmetics they have, which will be collected and donated to a shelter for battered women.