As Jews and non-Jews gather in Poland this week for the International March of the Living, and the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, it is important also to remember the man credited with conceiving the march.
The name Avraham Hirschorn seldom, if ever, appears in March of the Living literature. Admittedly, Hirschorn, a politician, who died last year, did not fare well in his political career, even when he was finance minister.
Caught with his hand in the cookie jar, he was forced to resign, charged with corruption and imprisoned. But history is history, and the flaw in his character should not be a reason to ignore his contribution to a meaningful and extraordinarily successful project.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
■ THE WARSAW Ghetto Uprising, supposedly, debunks the myth that Jews were not fighters and were just meek individuals who led a nomadic existence as they fled from persecution. While it is true that Jews were persecuted and fled to what they hoped would be a safer place, they were also fighters.
During his state visit to Israel in 2006, Polish president Lech Kaczynski gave a memorable address at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, in which he spoke of Berek Joselewicz, an 18th-century Jewish colonel in the Polish army, who led a Jewish cavalry squad. There have been Jewish soldiers in the Polish army ever since, as well as in other European armies, and they fought in large numbers during World War II.
Likewise, while the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is the best known as an act of rebellion and resistance, there were scores of Jewish resistance operations in towns and villages throughout Europe. More should be done to make them known to the public.
Memory in the Livingroom
■ IN ISRAEL and elsewhere in the Jewish world, Holocaust survivors will this week meet with large and small groups of people for what is known in Hebrew as “Zikaron Basalon.” Literally translated, it means “Memory in the Livingroom,” whereby Holocaust survivors share their experiences with people gathered in a relatively intimate setting. Some of the survivors are eloquent speakers and make a strong impact on their audiences.
Even those who do not speak well are able to convey what it meant to survive in an inhuman environment, whether in a camp, in the forest, beneath the floorboards, in an attic, or behind the false back of a cupboard. For those of us born in freedom, it is difficult to imagine how anyone could live that way for a day, let alone for days, weeks, months and even years.
Walter Bingham, a broadcast and print media journalist, is among those who will be sharing memories this year. His talk, in English, is under the auspices of the Adopt-a-Safta organization and will take place on Monday, April 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Ichud Olam, 86 Ben-Yehuda St., Tel Aviv. Admission is free.
Bingham, who was born in Germany, arrived in England on a kindertransport. The war was still raging when he was in his late teens, and when he was old enough, he joined the army. He served as an ambulance driver with the British forces in Normandy in 1944. After the war, Bingham, a native German speaker, was transferred to an intelligence unit, where he helped to interrogate high-ranking German officers.
Born in January 1924, he is remarkably well-preserved, and looks much younger than his biological age. If his name seems familiar, you may have read it in The Jerusalem Post or its sister publication The Jerusalem Report, or you may have heard his radio program Walter’s World.
The Declaration of Independence
■ ISRAEL’S DECLARATION of Independence has been in the news a lot lately, and not just because this is the 75th anniversary of independence, but because so many people think that the text of the declaration is the foundation for Israel’s constitution and that no judicial reform beyond what is written in the declaration is needed.
To re-enforce this idea, a reading of the declaration with cantillation will take place at the egalitarian section of the Western Wall on Sunday, April 23. It will be relayed to different parts of the Jewish world at 6 p.m., Jerusalem-time.
The reading will follow an extraordinary Zionist Congress, to be held at the Jerusalem International Convention Center from April 19-21, to mark the 75th anniversary of Israel’s Independence. The program includes networking between Zionists from around the world, open plenary sessions, lectures and workshops on Zionism in action, roundtable discussions, a dinner for delegates and 125 young entrepreneurs, a film and a play
It will also be a farewell to Jerusalem-born Avraham Duvdevani, a former chairman of the World Zionist Organization, who is stepping down from the global chairmanship of the Jewish National Fund. There will also be a “Celebrating Zionism” event in the presence of President Isaac Herzog, who is the former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Israeli-Palestinian Joint Memorial Ceremony
■ DESPITE ATTEMPTS to prevent it from taking place, the annual Israeli-Palestinian Joint Memorial Ceremony will be held on April 24 at 8.30 p.m. at Ganei Yehoshua in Tel Aviv. The ceremony – being organized by Combatants for Peace and the Parents Circle Families Forum, which together comprise more than 600 families – is part of an ongoing attempt to bring an end to hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians.
This will be the 18th annual joint memorial ceremony. In Jewish tradition, the number 18 stands for life, and the wish is to spare the lives of innocent people on both sides.
Even people who have committed acts of terrorism come from families who loved them and miss them, and who themselves do not believe that terrorism will help to resolve the conflict.
Many Israelis who have lost loved ones to terrorism, or to military action against terrorism, understand this and like the Palestinians who attend the ceremony, realize that it provides a unique opportunity for Israelis and Palestinians to grieve together and talk about peace as they mourn each other’s pain.
Rising tensions make it more imperative than ever for groups such as these to come together to challenge the status quo, and demand an end to the ongoing violence. Together, they want to set the foundations for a new reality based on mutual respect, dignity and equality for all.
All those who are part of this initiative strongly condemn violence, and some are apprehensive that people intent on disrupting the memorial ceremony will use violent means to do so.
Organizers emphasize that this is not simply a matter of exchanging narratives about lives needlessly lost. It is about mutual compassion without necessarily knowing the full story.
Urban renewal can interfere with people’s lives
■ CONSTRUCTION AND urban renewal interfere with people’s lives in many different ways, and even forces changes in event venues that have been in the pipeline for months. A case in point is the annual Rosh Hodesh lecture series for English-speaking women, organized by Shirley Zauer, Rebecca Goldsmith, Lyn Fisher and Leah Zelwer on Sunday, April 23.
Usually held at synagogue hall in Jerusalem’s San Simon neighborhood, the event had to be moved to Kehillat Mevakshei Derech, 2 Shai Agnon St. The speaker will be Lori Palatnik, an internationally-known Jewish educator who is the founder of Momentum. The project is a year-long journey in which participants explore the relationship of Jewish women in Judaism, as they also network with other Jewish women in their own communities, and those beyond. Their involvement includes a commitment to providing some form of Jewish education to their children.
At the end of the year, the women spend eight days in Israel in a very intense and often emotional program. Those who do not already have a Hebrew name can receive one at a special ceremony on Masada. For many, this provides a greater sense of belonging to the Jewish people and is a life-changing experience. A high percentage of women stay with Momentum at the conclusion of the year, with some becoming leaders in their communities.
Palatnik and her husband, Rabbi Yakov Palatnik, came to Israel for Passover as speakers in the AACI “Pesach in Jerusalem” program, which brought some 300 American Jews to a hotel in the capital, where they enjoyed a diverse and comprehensive experience.
The upcoming Rosh Hodesh event is wheelchair accessible and parking is available on a side street adjacent to the building. The event includes a light lunch, and will begin at 12.45 p.m.; admission is NIS 50 (cash only). Reservations must be made by Wednesday, April 19 by contacting email@example.com.