Archive for the ‘Holocaust’ tag
by Laura Koran
How many people would lay down their lives for a stranger?
It’s the question at the center of the new documentary “Besa: The Promise,” which premiered last weekend at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.
The filmmakers’ answer: “Albanians would.”
During one of humanity’s darkest chapters, when millions of Jews, gays, communists and racial minorities were rounded up across Europe, many Albanians put up a fight to save complete strangers.
They risked their lives to shelter displaced Jewish families under Italian, and later German, occupation during the Holocaust. Many in the small, predominantly Muslim country in southeastern Europe took refugees into their homes despite the risks and the cost, passing their guests off as family members to keep them safe.
At the core of this effort was a concept called “besa,” an Albanian code of honor that holds a person’s oath as sacred.
Under besa, a guest in one’s home must be protected at all cost. The code is uniquely Albanian and is cited in the new film as the main reason that Albanians opened their borders and their homes to displaced Jews when many others in Europe turned them away.
The code is fueled in part by the tenets of Islam under which saving a life is a blessed act.
by Casey Hall
from the New York Times
Shanghai–While much of the city’s Jewish Quarter has disappeared in the years since the end of World War II, the Ohel Moshe Synagogue is a constant reminder of how this Chinese city saved tens of thousands of Jews fleeing the Holocaust.
Built by Russian Jews in 1927 in the Hongkou district in northern Shanghai, the synagogue was the primary religious destination for the Jewish refugees who flooded into the city.
And while its facade has not changed, the building now is the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. It is the first stop for many visitors seeking information about what the Holocaust scholar David Kranzler called the “Miracle of Shanghai.”
About 20,000 refugees settled around the synagogue, in an area called the Restricted Sector for Stateless Refugees but more commonly known as the Jewish Ghetto. The 2.68 square kilometers, or about a square mile, which was cordoned off by the Japanese who controlled the city, also was home to 100,000 Shanghaiese, who were welcoming to their new neighbors, according to Jian Chen, the museum’s director.
Religious and Cultural Traditions in Transitional Justice
by Landon E. Hancock and Aysegul Keskin Zeren
from Journal of Religion, Conflict, and Peace
Transitional justice mechanisms are typically created to aid societies moving from authoritarian rule or as part of a post-conflict reconciliation process. For the most part their construction reflects one of two trends that have developed in the wake of the Second World War. The first is the legacy of the Nuremberg Tribunals, established in order to reassert the rule of law and, to a lesser extent, to legitimize post-Nazi Germany’s government as separate from that which prosecuted the war and conducted the Holocaust. The second is the rising use of truth commissions, originally used as alternative mechanisms when tribunals proved difficult or impossible to implement, but increasingly seen as valuable in and of themselves as mechanisms for inducing healing and reconciliation.
Much has been written about the relative strengths of tribunals versus truth commissions. Which, for instance, delivers more justice? Which provides for more long-term reconciliation? Or how do both mechanisms operate in the same environment? One area explored less often is the cultural relevance of each of these mechanisms and whether or not there is a “good fit” between any particular transitional justice mechanism and local cultural and religious traditions. A few studies have examined the role of religion itself—as separate from culture—focusing largely on the role of religion in the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission; but to date none has tackled the larger issue of culture.
This paper seeks to problematize the role of religious and cultural traditions in transitional justice mechanisms, paying attention to the nature of local traditions, the extent to which they are reflected in the chosen mechanism, and the overall result in terms of meeting the stated goals and satisfying the affected populations. In doing so, we will apply portions of a framework developed by Julie Mertus to examine the effectiveness of international tribunals by matching their functions to interested audiences. Mertus’ examination compares six functions common to tribunals with the interests of three broad constituencies: the international community, local power brokers, and survivors, victims and bystanders. Our examination uses Mertus’ ideas that transitional justice mechanisms have the ability to speak for and to serve different populations. However, since we are extending our examination beyond tribunals to encompass truth commissions and other local mechanisms, we are moving beyond her six functions to focus largely on the extent to which mechanisms receive the approval of different constituencies and whether a high degree of congruency between the mechanism and local religious and cultural traditions results in a higher degree of approval by survivors, victims and bystanders than those mechanisms that seem otherwise to be primarily serving the international community.
by Philip Rosenbaum, Matthew Moskowitz and Jonathan O’Beirnefrom from CNN
Help wanted: Someone who can sit in one place for hours on end, has the hand-eye coordination of a brain surgeon, a yogi’s power of concentration, a linguist’s knack for languages – especially ancient Hebrew – and a monk’s ability to work alone in contemplative silence, all while avoiding impure thoughts.
The hypothetical job posting, which you’re not likely to see in the classifieds, is for a sofer, or Torah scribe.
Every day, scribes around the world spend painstaking hours writing new Torahs – which contain the first five books of the Bible – by hand and restoring damaged or old ones that show the natural ravages of time that could make the scrolls unusable for services.
Such was the case for a Torah at Manetto Hill Jewish Center in Plainview, New York. Until recently, the Torah sat in disrepair in a showcase in the suburban Long Island synagogue after the congregation adopted it in 1974.
It is one of 1,564 Torahs from the former Czechoslovakia that made it out of the ashes of the Holocaust into Jewish hands, in the form of the Westminster Synagogue in London. From there, the Torahs were distributed to synagogues around the world.
During World War II, the Nazis confiscated this Torah, also known as number 559, from a synagogue in Kolin, about 35 miles east of Prague. The Nazis were known to confiscate sacred items.
The town’s Jewish community was deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic, where most were killed.
Rabbi Yochanan Salazar, a scribe with Sofer on Site, a North Miami Beach, Florida-based organization, restored the Kolin Torah, which he calls a “survivor of the Holocaust.”
From The Huffington Post
We are passing through a season of singular national distemper where, for reasons best understood by social psychiatrists, the American people have entered into what can only be described as “open season” on Islam. Mosques everywhere, not just the “Ground Zero” mosque, are under attack; voters in Oklahoma have amended their state constitution to forbid state courts from considering Sharia law in their decisions (not that they had any intention of mastering that sophisticated legal corpus); otherwise “liberal” communicators debate whether First Amendment protections extend to followers of the Prophet Mohammed; and Muslims everywhere worry (rightfully) whether they have a place in the American mosaic.
Saddest to me, as a Jew, are the number of my co-religionists who are riding point on this peculiar crusade.
From The Huffington Post
(RNS) Imam Mohamed Magid assumes the helm of the Islamic Society of North America, the largest Muslim group in the U.S. and Canada, at a time of unprecedented hostility and suspicion against U.S. Muslims.
Changing those perceptions is the first priority for the Sudanese-born Magid, 45, who has earned high marks as an outgoing bridge-builder who heads the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, a congregation of 5,000 families in Sterling, Va., just outside Washington, D.C.
Magid succeeds Ingrid Mattson, a soft-spoken but unflappable Hartford Seminary scholar who was elected as the group’s first female and first convert president in 2006.
Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.
From The Huffington Post
ST. LOUIS (RNS) In 2003, Norman Gershman was looking for some of the righteous.
What he found astonished the investment banker-turned-photographer, and led him toward a project now on display in a St. Louis synagogue.
The Righteous Among Nations are gentile rescuers who make up “a small minority who mustered extraordinary courage to uphold human values,” according to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial museum.
They are, the museum says, “the few who helped Jews in the darkest time in their history.”
Gershman’s story begins during the Holocaust and involves Albanian Muslims — villagers, peasants and farmers — who risked their lives and the lives of their families to shelter Jews fleeing Nazi Germany.