Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It recalls the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. The New York Times marked the day by highlighting an obituary it had prepared years ago, but it only recently found out that the person passed away two years ago. And so The Times told its readers about the 2014 death of David Stoliar, at the age of 91 in Oregon. For more than a half-century, David Stoliar remained a silent witness to the worst civilian maritime disaster of World War II, the only survivor among nearly 800 Jews fleeing the Holocaust in Romania aboard a refugee ship – the STRUMA – that was barred by the British from Palestine, interned by Turkey for months, set adrift without power by Turkey, and torpedoed by a Soviet submarine in the Black Sea in 1942. As The Times noted, “The doomed voyage of the Struma might have been a forgotten footnote to Holocaust history had it not been for Mr. Stoliar’s survival and his willingness years later to attest to the indifference and brutal decisions that put Palestine out of reach and led to the deaths of hundreds at the hands of nominal allies against Hitler.”
The Brown University Daily Herald in Rhode Island reports that the “Jewish frat” A.E.Pi at the ivy league campus of Brown has become a Beta Rho Pi. The Beta Rho chapter at Brown of the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi separated from the international organization and became an independent fraternity. Reportedly, brothers at Brown found that some members of the international fraternity held biases against their non-Jewish frat brothers. Beta Rho Pi plans to continue to welcome all prospective brothers regardless of their religious affiliation while retaining the fraternity’s Jewish identity, frat prez Ben Owens said. Another reason for the brotherhood’s disaffiliation was said to be the international organization’s handling of sexual assault. According to Owens, AEPi reps prioritized risk management instead of emphasizing education and prevention.
In an exclusive, The Forward reported on a quiet meeting held between paroled spy Jonathan Pollard and several Jewish leaders at a Manhattan synagogue. The meeting was supposed to be un-publicized, but the group that supports justice for JP (Jonathan Pollard) issued a press release, perhaps hoping to make it seem that the leadership of several major Jewish organizations were supportive of Pollard or reducing the hardship of his parole. U.S. Congressman Nadler was in attendance.
Kippahs are cool, tefillin not so much. The Foreign Ministry of the Heshemite Kingdom of Jordan apologized after an Israeli family was told in December by a Jordanian border official to leave behind their kippot. However it confirmed that it was not permitted to enter the kingdom with tefillin or tallit. The ban is intended to protect tourists’ safety.
U.S. President Barack Obama visited the Embassy of the State of Israel in Washington DC this evening to note International Holocaust Remembrance Day and to speak at the Righteous Among the Nations Award Ceremony. This is the first time that the ceremony is being held in the United States. Obama, who began with an ‘Erev Tov,’ a quote from the Talmud, and a wish to Shimon Peres for a speedy recovery was introduced to the podium by filmmaker and philanthropist Steven Spielberg, who shared that he learned as a young child to count numbers from the tattoos of Hungarian Holocaust survivors in Los Angeles. Obama shared how his uncle helped to liberate a camp at Buchenwald, and was so shaken it took him months to even speak of the horrors. President Obama focused his remarks on the current rise in anti-Semitism worldwide and implored the Americans and world to not be silent, to to see any attack on diversity as an attack on all of us.
The four honorees are: Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds, who participated in the landing of the American forces in Europe and was taken prisoner by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge. While in captivity, the Germans ordered the captured Jewish POWs at the camp to report. Master Sergeant Edwards, the highest-ranking American non-commissioned officer, ordered all of the U.S. soldiers to stand together, and he announced to the German officer, “We are all Jews.” The German officer gave up, and the Jewish soldiers’ lives were saved; Lois Gunden, who was an American teaching in France who helped smuggle Jewish children out of an internment camp and into a children’s home she established; and Walery and Maryla Zbijewski, a Polish couple who put their lives at risk to secretly house a five year old Jewish child in Warsaw for several months.
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