JTNews | April 5, 2013
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DESCRIPTIONJTNews | The Voice of Jewish Washington for April 5, 2013
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Where do we go from here?Big changes are afoot among Seattles Jewish communal leadership. What does that mean for our future?Part one in a series begins on page 8 professionalwashington.com connecting our local Jewish community
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For one Holocaust survivor, Siemens was a roadblock to his storyToby Axelrod JTA World News ServiceBERLIN (JTA) I was 23 when I first met my cousin Gilbert Michlin. He was sitting at a brasserie near his office in Paris wearing a dark suit with a folded handkerchief poking out of the breast pocket. His short, dark hair was perfectly combed. He said, in charmingly accented English, There is one thing I must tell you: I was in Auschwitz. Of course, I already knew. But I had never met a survivor before, let alone our French cousin, who had been a slave laborer for Siemens at the death camp. After the war, Gilbert went to study in the United States and eventually returned to Paris to become the European director of telecom products for IBM. That day in the late 1970s, Gilbert, then 53, had no more to say about the Holocaust. Instead, he told me how miraculous it was that hed met his French wife, Mireille, in America. A girl from Marseilles and a boy from Paris would never meet in France, he laughed. Someone should write a novel. We met again over the years. But it was not until 2006, when he and Mireille visited my adopted home city of Berlin, that I really got to know Gilbert. Berlin had been one of Gilberts last stations on his way to liberation. Now he and three other men had been invited back to share their recollections with the public and meet representatives of the German company that had recruited them at Auschwitz in February 1944. By then, Gilbert was 80 and had published his memoir, Of No Interest to the Nation, in French and English. He wanted not only to tell what he remembered, but also to provide evidence. He had spent many hours in archives and consulted historians. Sitting at his laptop, he had typed out the facts of his parents fate in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. The fight against Holocaust denial was most important to him. His new hero was U.S. historian Deborah Lipstadt, who dared to call David Irving a Holocaust denier and triumphed in Irvings lawsuit against her. In his memoir, Gilbert recalled French complicity in the deportation of Jews. He lovingly portrayed his fathers yearning to immigrate to America and his rejection at Ellis Island in 1923; Gilberts own childhood dream to be an actor; and the shock of Nazi occupation and his arrest with his mother by French police at 2 a.m. on Feb. 3, 1944, two days before his 18th birthday. A week later, Gilbert saw his mother for the last time as she was driven away from the Auschwitz platform in a truck. It was at the death camp that a Siemens representative recruited Gilbert and about 100 others to a work unit. His fathers insistence that Gilbert learn a mechanical trade saved his life. Gilbert was selected for armaments production. Siemens kept its Bobrek factory prisoners together, even after the SS evacuated them in the death march from Auschwitz in January 1945. They were transferred together from Buchenwald to Berlin. A few months later, the war was over. Sixty-one years later, Gilbert was back in Berlin. Visiting the unfinished Holocaust memorial, he said the insurmountable chain-link fence was more evocative than the Peter Eisenman construction itself. I went with the Bobrek survivors to the Siemens offices. Each told his story. Then my cousin stood and insisted that the company finally open its archives to historians so they could get some answers: Why were these slave laborers kept together? Why were they saved? The Siemens representatives froze; they had no response. The archive remained closed. In the years since, I did some research for Gilbert, finding original documents about his family in other postwar archives. But it was always the Siemens archive that haunted him. For years he carried on conversations and correspondence with sympathetic company representatives, yet never got into their archive. Meanwhile, each year on his birthday, Gilbert and Mireille invited several friends survivors and their spouses, and me to lunch in a Paris hotel. With champagneXXPage 3
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friday, april 5, 2013 . www.jtnews.net . JTNews
the rabbis turn
Getting serious about parentingRabbi Bernie Fox Northwest Yeshiva High SchoolOne of the most beloved elements of the Passover Haggadah is the discussion of the four sons. The Haggadah identifies four children, each with a unique personality. Four short vignettes advise the parent how to best teach each child the story of our redemption from Egypt. Many lessons are embedded in this cherished selection of Jewish literature. Lets consider a few. We must teach the child who is actually before us. Every child has unique talents and faces personal challenges. The talents are not always the ones we wish for our children and the challenges are sometimes different from the ones we are prepared to confront. To successfully educate and nurture our children we have to separate our own egos as parents and try to understand the real needs of our children. This imperative to honestly assess and respond to the needs of our children is based upon our commitment to the education of every child. This commitment must apply to our childrens general education and to their Jewish education. Even children who are not talented or precocious students must be taught the meaning of living Jewishly. Jewish learning is not like AP biology. Some students take the course. Others do not see themselves focusing on science in college. They decide the course does not serve their needs or interest them. If their Judaism is to be meaningful, our children must be Jewishly educated every one of them. Parents need to provide guidance and set boundaries. The rebellious son in the Haggadah is not ignored. Neither is he indulged. His parent responds to him with a pointed and meaningful retort. The parent in the Haggadah sets a boundary and communicates an expectation. I am head of a high school. Often parents tell me about important decisions that they are leaving in the hands of their children 13- or 14-year-olds. This includes which school they will attend and other decisions that will shape their futures. Often, these parents are struggling to define their roles in their childrens lives. It is important to foster independence and responsibility in our children. Involving our children in a decision-making process is a great learning experience. However, as parents we have accumulated a lifetime of experience and a wealth of knowledge. But when we ignore our own experience and knowledge and act impulsively, we usually achieve less-than-ideal outcomes. We should be careful about completely delegating important decisions to our children who lack life experience and our accumulated knowledge. Parents In 2010, the semi-official Siemens historian who had held the proverbial key to the company archive was killed in a freak accident when the brakes failed in a reproduction of a historic Siemens auto. After that, Siemens took some real steps to improve access to the archives. In a visit to the company archives in Munich in 2011, I glimpsed underground rooms housing miles of files stacked on metal shelves. And I received an open invitation to spend a couple of days perusing the newly catalogued Bobrek files to my hearts content. Gilbert, however, would never get a chance to see them. Last July, Gilbert called to tell me that the melanoma he had fought for years was back. I am being attacked, he said. This is must provide guidance to their children. As parents, we must also create boundaries. We must establish areas in which we assign responsibility and authority to our children. But we must also place limits upon our childrens authority. Also, our involvement in a key decision communicates to our children the issue is important enough to demand our attention. Parents who place life-altering decisions completely in their childrens hands for example, which school to attend communicate to their children that the decision is not important enough to demand their parents personal involvement. Once the child perceives this attitude, how likely is it that he or she will carefully and thoughtfully consider the decision? Parents are role models whether for better or for worse. In the Haggadahs account, the parent is the teacher. This communicates two important lessons: First, as parents we are responsible to personally participate in the education of our children. We cannot discharge our duty to educate our children by delegating their education to professional educators and then absenting ourselves from the education process. Second, when we personally engage in dialogue with our children, we communicate that the ideas, concepts, and values we are discussing are important to us. Children are influenced by their parents example. When parents delegate really the last stretch. Just as this news arrived, we also learned that a German translation of Gilberts memoir would be published. He had wanted to reach out to young Germans, whom he had never blamed for the past. The layout was ready. The cover was finished. How fast do you think you can get the book out? I asked the publisher. Were rushing, I was told. That August, I arrived at the American hospital in Paris with a photo of the book cover on my computer. Gilbert lay in bed with an IV attached to his arm. Gilbert once told me he was not afraid of death, since he had seen so much of it. He died two days after I returned home from my visit to Paris. His memoir in all aspects of their childrens education to the professionals, their children ask why the material learned in school does not deserve any of their parents attention. Of course, this is especially relevant to our childrens Jewish learning. When this learning is not a topic of conversation between parents and child, the child is left wondering how important Jewish tradition and learning is to his or her parents. A parent of one of my high school students shared with me his thoughts on this aspect of parenting. He acknowledged that when he sent his daughter to Northwest Yeshiva High School he assumed the professionals would take responsibility for her education and assure that she would turn out more or less as he and his wife envisioned. Then he realized his daughter was watching them. Actually, she was scrutinizing them to determine the degree to which they actually subscribed to the values she was learning in school. He realized that teenagers are remarkably skilled at uncovering every one of their parents inconsistencies, which they often characterize as hypocrisies. His conclusion was that school can educate but parents must model. Neither alone is effective. Combined they communicate a strong message. If these few paragraphs from the Haggadah can teach us so much, imagine the wisdom and insight we can provide our children through a serious and high quality Jewish education. German was published a few weeks later, last fall. Not long ago, I received a call from the Holocaust memorial in Berlin. I just read your cousins book, Constanze Jaiser, a research associate there, told me. Wed like to use an excerpt on our educational website for German students. I still havent managed to visit the Siemens archive; its been too hard to contemplate with Gilbert gone. But his passing does not mean his quest has died. Maybe the archive contains only lists with names. Or maybe it contains some answers. Gilbert will never know perhaps I will.
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we would toast to life. More than once, Gilbert drove me through the streets of Paris, pointing out the apartments where he and his parents had lived, the parks where he had played as a child, the hotel where he had been put up after his return to Paris in 1945, emaciated and alone. I never fully understood how Gilbert could resettle in Paris after all that had happened. But somehow he achieved a balance: Holding on to his postwar American citizenship, bonding with fellow survivors, digging to find out what happened to his parents, writing his book and speaking to French youth about his life. Always, however, he wondered what was in those Siemens archives.
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The investigation is still going on, and this is why the preference obviously is to have some more definitive conclusions. Bulgarian Ambassador Elena Poptodorova on her countrys hesitation to take the lead on labeling Hezbollah a terrorist organization after an attack on Israelis there last summer. See the story on page 7.
JTNews . www.jtnews.net . friday, april 5, 2013
U.S. Holocaust Museum must expand its scopeEdith Shaked Special to JTNewsThe United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), should amend the Proclamation of the Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust, as annually posted at its website, to truthfully commemorate all the different victims. A reading of the first paragraph seems exclusive. Here it is: Whereas, the Holocaust was the state-sponsored, systematic persecution and annihilation of European Jewry by Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945 six million were murdered; Roma (Gypsies), people with disabilities, and Poles were also targeted for destruction or decimation for racial, ethnic, or national reasons; and millions more, including homosexuals, Jehovahs Witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war, and political dissidents, also suffered grievous oppression and death under Nazi tyranny. It seems that the USHMM does not consider the Roma, people with disabilities, homose...