Grapevine: Remembering Babi Yar

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, this year coincides with the 76th anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre, which was part of an inhumane plan to kill all the Jews of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.

Judge Lawrence Brass (left) and Sir Andrew Burns. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Judge Lawrence Brass (left) and Sir Andrew Burns.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, this year coincides with the 76th anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre, which was part of an inhumane plan to kill all the Jews of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.
On September 29 and 30 of 1941, 33,771 Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their cohorts and the bodies were thrown into a ravine.
Most of the dead had been publicly humiliated before submachine guns cut short their lives.
There were people who miraculously survived. Some, mostly children, who had not been hit by bullets, managed somehow to crawl out from beneath stacks of bodies and to make their way undetected out of the ravine. Others were saved by circumstance.
Waissili Michailowski, whose original name was Zesar Kaz, whose mother died soon after he was born, was raised by a nanny that his father hired to look after him. His father was killed at Babi Yar and when the shooting started, it was to Babi Yar that the superintendent of the building in which they lived sent the nanny with the little boy. There were thousands of people literally waiting to be killed. The nanny wept and so did the child.
For some inexplicable reason, a German soldier walking past them pushed them aside, pointed to a narrow passageway and told the nanny to make the child sit down there. The death lines moved forward and the German either forgot them, or was too busy to think about them.
Whatever the reason, the nanny and the little boy stayed in the passage till it was dark and then snuck away. The child was put in an orphanage and later adopted by the Michailowski family, who made sure that he received a good education, with the result that he became an engineer.
His story is one of several compiled last year by the Claims Conference for the 75th anniversary of the massacre.
On Yom Kippur, as we did on Rosh Hashana, we will recite “Unetanne Tokef,” the haunting, centuries-old liturgical work composed on his deathbed by Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, who after defying the archbishop and refusing to convert, had his limbs severed one by one, and was sent home. The most pertinent part of “Unetanne Tokef,” from which Leonard Cohen took inspiration for his composition “Who by Fire,” is: “On Rosh Hashana it will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur it will be sealed – how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword and who by beast, who by famine and who by thirst, who by upheaval and who by plague, who by strangling and who by stoning.
Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted. But repentance, prayer and charity annul the severe decree.”
A year before their deaths, the people massacred at Babi Yar did not anticipate their fate, just as most of us cannot anticipate ours. But what we can do is remember them and say a prayer for them on the day that our own fates are sealed.
■ A FORMER British ambassador to Israel and an experienced Jewish community activist have been chosen to head Oasis of Peace UK (British Friends of Neve Shalom – Wahat al-Salam).
Neve Shalom is Israel’s unique peace village in which Jews and Arabs live and work side by side in friendship and harmony.
Neve Shalom (Oasis of Peace) is a cooperative village that proves on a daily basis that Jews and Arabs can coexist in a spirit of cooperation, not only as neighbors but in joint efforts to educate the wider public in matters of peace, equality and understanding.
The new chairman and vice chairman of Oasis of Peace UK are Sir Andrew Burns and Judge Laurence Brass, who were recently elected by the Trustees of Oasis of Peace UK.
Sir Andrew was ambassador to Israel from 1992 to 1995, but has been back to visit on several occasions. Up until two years ago, he spent five years as the UK envoy for post-Holocaust issues, and headed UK delegations to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
From 2014 to 2015 he chaired the commission for the International Tracing Service. He is also a past executive chairman of the Anglo-Israel Association and chairs the UK Steering Committee of the biennial Anglo-Israel Colloquium Commenting on his appointment, Sir Andrew said that the principles embodied in the Peace Village are now more relevant than ever 47 years after its founding.
“Our aim is to advance social equity and cohesion in both Israel and the UK,” he declared. Brass is keen to bring his experience of working within Jewish communal organizations to the benefit of the charity. In addition to serving on the bench, Brass also has a political background. He contested in five parliamentary elections and served 10 years as an elected borough councilor on Hertsmere Council. He is currently an adviser to the Liberal Democrats on Middle East Affairs and is a former vice chair of the Liberal Democrats Friends of Israel.
■ GIFT GIVING at this time of year is a must. After everyone has disposed of honey cake, honey cookies and jars of honey as Rosh Hashana gifts, it’s time to go for fragrance rather than taste.
Judith Yanos, the head of the training division of Casamorati perfumes, which are marketed exclusively by the Lilit Cosmetics Group, launched the brand in Israel at a reception at the Seatara restaurant in Tel Aviv with Jelena Ostojic , the international business manager of the Casamorti brand, who came from Italy for the occasion The brand offers seven vintage boutique perfumes in Israel. The fragrances are produced by the prestigious perfume house XWRJOFF, and are inspired by the ancient art of the Italian perfume industry. Because they are relatively rare, you won’t find them on the shelves of your local pharmacy. They are available only in selected stores of the April chain.
■ AMERICAN COMEDIAN Elon Gold, who is truly very funny, was in Israel at the end of last year to do a benefit show for Kids Kicking Cancer. He’s coming back again, this time on behalf of StandWithUs.
He will be performing at Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem on October 10 and at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center on October 16. To warm up the audience, fellow comedian Avi Liberman will start the ball rolling. For anyone who wants a good laugh, the show is truly worthwhile.
■ CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS that are in the process of completion all over Israel are not necessarily solving the country’s acute housing problems, because many young couples simply cannot afford to buy an apartment and are terrified to take out a mortgage in case of a downturn in their current finances. Therefore many attractive residential projects are costing the developers a lot of money to build, and are not selling like hot cakes unless they are in high-end areas where there are buyers for luxury properties.
With the recent wave of publicity about church-owned land that was leased to the Jewish National Fund and is now being sold to private investors, many people are more cautious about buying apartments for fear that the ground may disappear from beneath their feet, and they will be left with nothing.
In Ra’anana, there’s a partial solution to these problems that goes by the name of Rubinstein on the Park. It’s a long-term rental project in a sought-after location that includes a variety of four-room and 4.5- room apartments and duplexes. Special consideration has been given to the needs of young families and there’s no bureaucratic run-around for tenants.
The Rubinstein Group which developed and built the project, will also manage it, meaning that tenants have one address in which to pay rent, ask for improvements and lodge complaints, and can live for most of their lives in the same apartment without worrying about paying off a 30-year mortgage. The project is situated in the Neot Uzi neighborhood adjacent to Park Ra’anana, and comprises 14 buildings, each of which has at least six stories. In other words, it’s an urban village on the edge of a rural area. Ra’anana Mayor Zeev Bielski, accompanied by Itai Ginzberg, head of the Municipal Planning and Engineering Department, dropped by for a Rosh Hashana toast, met some of the tenants and project manager Yonit Harel-Yadlin and predicted that in the year ahead, there would be many similar projects not only in Ra’anana but all over the country. Long-term rentals, said Bielski, are an ideal solution to the housing problem.
■ BECAUSE OF the special relationship that Israel has with Germany, the outcome of the German elections that are being held today is of particular interest to Israel. Although political pundits predict that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will once again come up trumps, there can always be political surprises.
To expand insight into German politics and their influence on Europe, the Institute for National Security Studies is hosting a symposium on Thursday, September 28, from 4 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. on the elections in Germany and their implications for Europe and relations with Israel. Speakers will include: Oded Eran, a former Israel Ambassador to the European Unionm; German Ambassador Dr. Clemens von Goetze; Yaakov Hadas-Handelsman, former Israel Ambassador to Germany; Dr. Gisela Dachs, Center for German Studies and the European Forum of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Dr.
Michael Borchard, head of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Office in Israel; and Dr. Werner Puschra, executive director of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Office in Israel. The conference will be in English and the address is 40 Haim Levanon Street, on the campus of Tel Aviv University.
■ LONDON BUSINESSMAN and philanthropist Dr. Nissim Levy, who also has a home in Herzliya Pituah, was recently appointed chairman of the board of the Herzl Museum. In celebration of the appointment, he and his wife Rina held a reception at their home in Israel where guest of honor was Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. On Tuesday, September 26, Levy will be the guest of honor at the dedication of a plaque at the Herzl Museum at the entrance to Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, recognizing the contribution that he and his wife have made to the museum. Following an address by Avraham Duvdevani, the chairman of the World Zionist Organization, there will be a guided tour of the museum.
■ ONLY IN Israel? Probably not. But it’s odd to have a work that was originally written in Hebrew to be performed in Israel in Italian. For those members of Israel’s Italian community who want their children to speak Italian fluently but at the same time to be imbued with Israeli culture, the Italian Cultural Institute is hosting the Italian premiere of the children’s opera Night without a Moon, composed and directed by Shlomi Friqe, based on the booked by Etgaer Keret and Shira Geffen and illustrated by David Polonsky.
Performers will be soprano Hadar Beiser; a group of young choristers; Tali Goldberg on violin; Daniel Chervinsky on piano; and Elico Levy as the narrator. The date is Tuesday, September 26 at the Italian Cultural Institute, 25 Hamered Street, Tel Aviv.
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