Sister Cecylia Maria Roszak, perhaps the living oldest nun in the world passed away at 110. her death was made public by @ArchKrakowska, the Archidiecezja of Krakow, Poland. She was the recipient of a ‘Righteous Among Nations’ honor for helping to save Jews and hide Jews in her convent during the Holocaust. Sister Roszak was born in the village of Kie?czewo. Poland in 1908, and joined a monastery in 1929 in Krakow. In 1938, she traveled to Vilnius, one of nine nuns, to open a new convent in Lithuania. It was there that the nuns and Anna Borkowska, their mother superior, hid seventeen members Jewish partisan fighters (FPO: Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye) and smuggled hand grenades and arms into the Vilna Ghetto. Among those they saved was Abba Kovner, a radical leader of the Vilna Ghetto who tried to organize an armed resistance. He later became a poet in the State of Israel and a witness against Adolf Eichmann.
Ricky Jay, a magician, master-showman, author, and actor passed away over the weekend in Los Angeles. Born in Brooklyn and named Richard Jay (Katz) Potash, his family moved to Elizabeth, NJ, where his grandfather, an amateur magician, taught him the secrets and skills of sleight of hand. As a pre-teen, Jay was appearing on stage, and at 13, Al Flosso, a noted magician performed at the part after Jay’s bar mitzvah. Jay was 70, or perhaps 72 at the time of his death.
His death made the cover of newspapers and the evening newscasts in Hungary and other Eastern European countries, but has not been reported in the United States and Israel… yet. He was preparing for a major lecture this week (“The Struggle between the History and Collective Memory of the Twentieth Century: The Holocaust vs. Communism) when Professor Randolph Louis Braham passed away on Sunday at 95. He was named a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the City College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and was a founding board member of the academic committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Born in Bucharest, Romania in 1922, as Adolf Abraham, he was raised in Transylvania in the town of Dej. During WWII, he spent two years in a “Labor service” with the Hungarian army in the Ukraine and was briefly imprisoned in a Soviet POW camp from which he escaped. During his escape to Hungary in the West, in the Hungarian village Nyíri, he and four others were rescued from the Hungarian gendarmerie (working as an arm of the SS) by the Christian farmer István Novák (who was later honored by the State of Israel as a Righteous Among the Nations). He made his was to the American Army where he served as a translator. Arriving in New York City after the war, he earned his Ph.D., and authored over sixty books, and co-authored over four dozen more, mostly on the Holocaust. At CUNY, he founded The Rosenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies in 1979, and was famous for his encyclopedia of the Holocaust in Hungary (the three-volume The Geographical Encyclopedia of the Holocaust in Hungary), and his two-volume The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary. He received the U.S. National Jewish Book Award twice. In the 1998 Oscar-winning Academy Award for Documentary Feature film The Last Days, Professor Braham provided overviews of the Hungarian Holocaust. His life story is the subject of the documentary Rémálmok nyomában (produced by Duna-TV), which received the Camera Hungarica award in 2003. In January 2014, in a widely published open letter on what he saw as increasing attempts by Hungary’s rightist Orbán government to falsify history and whitewash the Horthy era, Prof. Braham returned his many medals and resigned from the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary, and forbade using his name in connection with the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest after excessive government interference. Two months ago, he published an open letter on the recent Hungarian government decision to construct a “competing” Holocaust museum.
Bernie (Bernard) Glassman, PhD passed away in Massachusetts. A Zen practitioner and activist, he combined tikkun olam with Zen practice, and was faniys for the Greyston Bakery that he founded in Yonkers, NY, just north of Manhattan in Westchester County. The bakery was renowned for its baked goods, and for its hiring and training of former convicts and prisoners, as well as Zen students. Glassman collaborated on a book with actor Jeff Bridges after the success of the film, The Big Lebowski. It was titled The Dude and the Zen Master, and used the film as a way to explain Zen ideas. Glassman was born in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, in 1939, and sold ice cream on the beach as a child. He studied at Technion in Haifa and worked as a teaching fellow, and then earned his PhD in applied mathematics from UCLA and worked as an aeronautical engineer on a NASA contract. It was in Southern California that he became interested in Zen. Although he was one of America’s most natable Zen teachers and leaders, he observed the Sabbath and sent his children to Jewish day schools.