A group of women at a Hadassah-WIZO event, 1950. (photo from JWB fonds; JMABC L.19711)
If you know someone in this photo, please help the JI fill the gaps of its predecessor’s (the Jewish Western Bulletin’s) collection at the Jewish Museum and Archives of B.C. by contacting [email protected].
Roberta Grossman (director), left, and Nancy Spielberg (producer) on the Duxford set of Above and Beyond. (photo from playmountproductions.com)
On Nov. 6, the 26th annual Vancouver Jewish Film Festival begins with the Canadian première of Above and Beyond, about a mainly American group of pilots, veterans of the Second World War, who fought for Israel in 1948. As part of Machal (foreign volunteers), “this ragtag band of brothers not only turned the tide of the war, preventing the possible annihilation of Israel at the very moment of its birth, they also laid the groundwork for the Israeli Air Force.”
Directed by Roberta Grossman, the 96-minute documentary was produced by Nancy Spielberg, who will be in Vancouver for the screening. Spielberg took the time to speak with the Independent via email in anticipation of her visit.
JI: What was it about the Machalniks’ experiences, in particular those of the air force pilots, that you found so compelling that you not only wanted to make a documentary but are following up Above and Beyond with a feature film version?
NS: First of all, we focused on pilots because, frankly, pilots are a lot sexier than infantry! There’s a romantic, tough, swagger, daring, live-on-the-edge, sweep-you-off-your-feet personality that felt bigger than life. I was so curious why these WWII pilots survived their tour of duty for the good ol’ US of A and then turned around and risked their lives for another country, and I was surprised that most of them were not at all Zionistic.
What drives a person to risk everything to save another person in need? Would I do that? Would you? Do we still do that as Americans? Is it part of that generation? Is it part of the American psyche? I was intrigued by their motivation and then I was swept off my feet by their charm and their chutzpah! The “adventures” that took place along the way and during their time in Israel make for great storytelling.
JI: What will a feature film be able to communicate that the documentary could not, or did not?
NS: I do hope that a feature film (dramatization) will communicate the same messages that we hope the doc does – how far does one go to help a brother in need? With a dramatization, we have more freedom to embellish the pilots’ stories and capers that we may have had to reduce in the doc or discard altogether. There are so many details and wild antics that could not be included in the doc but we’d love to explore in the dramatization.
JI: Near the end of Above and Beyond, you ask Coleman Goldstein whether he thought Israel would survive in tough times. What prompted the question and what was your reaction to his response, that, yes, it would survive, as “Israel’s an article of faith”? What is your answer to the question, and is it different now than it would have been when you asked it, given the most recent Israel-Hamas conflict (and the antisemitism it exposed) and as the U.S.-led fight against IS continues?
NS: We asked every pilot we interviewed whether he thought Israel had a fighting chance, or whether he thought he might not make it out alive. George Lichter said, “I thought we would lose….” We were surprised at Coleman’s answer because he was a very pragmatic, matter-of-fact gentleman, and he responded from his heart, as many of the pilots we interviewed did. Maybe they’ve become “softies” in their golden years, but there was a lot of emotion in our interviews.
My personal answer is that I am a spiritual person, and I agree with Coleman and Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion who, in 1956, said, “In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.” I need to hold on to that thought and belief in spite of the latest Israel-Hamas war and the antisemitism that has, once again, reared its ugly head.
JI: How does Israel and Judaism or Jewish culture fit into your life, and what would you tell North American Jewish youth today who, if polling is any indication, aren’t as connected to the Jewish state or Jewish practice as previous generations?
NS: I grew up in Phoenix, Ariz., where our family was the only Jewish family in the neighborhood (who didn’t always take too kindly to us). We were three-times-a-year Jews – Pesach, Yom Kippur and Chanukah. Outside of that, we were gastronomical Jews with a love for Yiddish and Russian melodies.
When I was in fifth grade, I started to go to a Jewish day school, which prompted me to come home and tell my mom that we needed to start keeping kosher so that I could have school friends over for play dates. Slowly, we evolved into kosher and Sabbath observance. When I was 19, I decided to leave UCLA and spend time on a kibbutz in Israel with my sister. That was it! I fell head over heels. I found a home that I didn’t know I was even missing. From that time on, I’ve been involved in Israel, Judaism and Jewish culture. My children went to Jewish schools and Jewish camps. In fact, my 26-year-old, Jessy Katz, has been living in Israel for two years. When I say to her, “I miss you, come home!” She says, “I am home.”
One of my main motivations in making this film is to reach out to the North American Jewish youth who feel very disconnected in the hopes that this film will be a much-needed shot in the arm of Jewish pride. I’m hoping that they will find a connection and take a fresh look at Israel and how it plays an integral part in being a Jew.
Above and Beyond screens at Fifth Avenue Cinemas on Nov. 6, 7 p.m. For more information about the film, visit playmountproductions.com. For the full schedule and tickets for this year’s Vancouver Jewish Film Festival, which runs Nov. 6-13, visit vjff.org.
Maya Tenzer joins Ballet BC for its 2014/15 season. (photo by Michael Slobodian)
Earlier this year, Ballet BC welcomed five new company members, bringing the total to 14, and four new apprentices. Now part of this intimate group is Maya Tenzer, who has joined the company as an apprentice for its 29th season, which begins Nov. 6 with No. 29.
No. 29 features the world première of White Act by Fernando Hernando Magadan, the Ballet BC première of An Instant by Lesley Telford and the reprisal of A.U.R.A. by Jacopo Godani.
“With this program, we will have commissioned 29 new works over the past five years by dance makers from around the world,” said Emily Molnar, Ballet BC artistic director, in a press release. “No. 29 is an evening that will showcase a dynamic and versatile range of dance while offering an engaging experience for audiences. It will grab you, excite you and challenge your ideas of ballet.”
Tenzer, 20, should fit in well with Ballet BC, which prides itself on being “grounded in the rigor and artistry of classical ballet, with an emphasis on innovation and the immediacy of the 21st century.” She joins the company from Arts Umbrella, with whom she studied and worked – with countless choreographers – from age 10.
“I was led to Arts Umbrella through a friend who did the summer intensive there and loved it,” Tenzer told the Independent. “I had begun to dance one year before in Paris, France, where my family had been living for the year. I started out taking one class a week, but I knew the following year I wanted to be doing more. In the many years to come of my training at Arts Umbrella, the school became my home and provided me with invaluable training. At Arts Umbrella, I was given the tools to joy and success in dance and in the world.”
She also trained at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. In a four-week summer intensive, she said, “I danced six days a week with demanding classes and a high level of commitment always demanded. The training there was vital to me. I was exposed to Gaga (a movement language created by Ohad Naharin, the director of Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv) and all the studios there have no mirrors, so I learned to love the freedom of not having the mirror as a distraction while dancing. I felt my individuality and ownership as a dancer take off while there.”
Locally, Tenzer apprenticed, in 2013, with choreographer Justine A. Chambers in the creation of Sphinx, “a solo created in collaboration with contemporary gamelan composer, Michael Tenzer,” according to Chambers’ website.
“For that project, being an apprentice meant acting as a body Justine could look at her movement on,” Tenzer told the JI. “It sometimes meant developing movement with her, and it was above all an amazing opportunity to work alongside Justine, who is an intelligent and generous artist.
“Also, Michael Tenzer is my father! Both my parents are music teachers – my dad at UBC and my mom at Suncrest Elementary School in Burnaby. The creative arts have always been an irreplaceable part of my daily life.”
As has Judaism, “in bringing together … family in a special way. I was never strongly religious but I love the bonds that the traditions of Judaism have made for me,” she said.
On the international front, Tenzer has toured with Arts Umbrella Dance Company, an experience she described as “a joy.”
“I thrive on the relentless schedule and the new experiences,” she said. “Last year, we spent one week in Holland and one week in Italy, taking workshops, rehearsing with NDT (Netherlands Dance Theatre), and preparing our own show. Being tired was a constant but, often, being at your end can be a catalyst for the best kinds of change and improvement.”
And that brings us back to Ballet BC. “Being an apprentice means I have the same schedule and opportunities to work with the incredible people that come to Ballet BC, but that often I will be an understudy for a piece instead of dancing in the first cast,” she explained. “This gives me a chance to learn from the artists of Ballet BC as they work to create the powerful art we see onstage.”
Tenzer spoke of dance as allowing her to connect body and mind. “To practise aligning the two daily, as my job, is a gift and an inspiration,” she said. “The environment at Ballet BC is supportive of being vulnerable and taking risks in order to enter new territory, and this is exciting and a privilege to be a part of.”
No. 29 is at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Nov. 6-8, 8 p.m. Tickets range from $30 to $80 (including service charges) and can be purchased from Ticketmaster at 1-855-985-2787 or ticketmaster.ca.
The poverty rate among Canadian Jews is increasing, according to the Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA’s 2011 National Household Survey, and social-service providers across the country are weighing in on the issue.
“For the first time in two decades, Jewish poverty in Toronto is on the rise,” said Nancy Singer, executive director of the Kehilla Residential Program, a nonprofit housing agency in Toronto.
The survey reported that the Jewish poverty rate is climbing across the country. There are 57,195 Jews living below the poverty line, which translates to 14.6 percent of Canada’s Jews, compared to 14.8 percent among the wider Canadian population. In 2001, the Jewish poverty rate was 13.6 percent.
Montreal has the highest rate of Jewish poverty of Canada’s major cities, at 20 percent, while Ottawa has the lowest rate of 8.9 percent. Vancouver sits at 16.1 percent, Toronto at 12.9 and Calgary at 10.8.
Robin Gofine, vice-president of strategic community planning and engagement at UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, said the statistics on poverty highlighted in the survey are “sobering.”
“Poverty in the Jewish community is an issue that affects more than one in 10, certainly in Toronto, and it is imperative that poverty be atop the communal agenda,” Gofine said.
“It is not just people with low socioeconomic standing, but people who are suffering from mental and physical illness, people with disabilities, new immigrants, seniors, Holocaust survivors and single parents,” she said.
More than 24,000 Jewish people in the GTA live under the poverty line, said Fran Chodak, a Jewish Family and Child (JF&CS) social worker and coordinator of the agency’s STEP – Striving to End Poverty – project.
“We also know that the line is somewhat arbitrary and that there are a whole lot of people who struggle financially, even though they may not be defined as poor, among the working poor.”
Referring to the increased number of Jewish people in the GTA living under the poverty line, Singer noted that the cost of living in Toronto has increased. “Rents have certainly gone up and the stock of affordable housing has not,” she said. “People are struggling … and these are hard-working people who can’t make ends meet, who have two jobs.”
The numbers suggest that Montreal’s Jewish community has been hit the hardest.
“In 2001, 18.6 percent of the population was considered living in poverty, and now we’ve reached 20 percent,” said Leah Berger, senior planning associate for Federation CJA in the department of strategic planning and community relations.
“What we’re observing in Quebec is that there is a progressive offloading of services from the government on to community organizations, on to families and individuals. Services and programs that were initially provided by the government are no longer being provided and there is still a need for these. So, in response, communities, families and individuals are having to offer responses without necessarily the financial means to do so,” Berger said.
“We know government-mandated health-care premiums have increased over the last few years, while services have been reduced. Transportation costs have increased; the price of a bus pass increase[d] almost annually over the past 10 years. Finding a subsidized spot in a day care is another challenge, particularly for single-parent families. The cost of rent has increased.”
Susan Karpman, director of community services and immigration at Ometz, an employment and social service provider in Montreal, said the reason why Montreal’s Jewish community has the highest poverty rate in the country is due in large part to the city’s aging community.
Seniors make up 20.4 percent of Montreal’s Jewish community, compared to 16.9 percent in Canada’s Jewish population as a whole.
“We also have significant numbers of large families with lots of children in the observant community, and that also tilts the balance, because that community has its own challenges in terms of supporting the larger and growing communities,” she said.
In Vancouver, the most recent statistics indicate that 16 percent of Jews here live below the poverty line, an increase of about two percentage points since 2001, said Susana Cogan, housing development director at Tikva Housing Society, a nonprofit agency that works to provide affordable housing for working-age, Jewish, low-income adults and families.
Cogan also attributed Vancouver’s growing poverty rate to an “increase in [the number of] seniors and the difficulty for people to get full-time positions.
“Vancouver has the most expensive housing – rental and ownership – costs of the whole of Canada. Yes, there is an affordability problem that affects everyone, including members of the Jewish community,” Cogan said.
Mark Zarecki, a Montreal native who serves as the executive director of Jewish Family Services of Ottawa, said the poor in Ottawa used to be more diverse when immigration rates were higher, but the demographics in Ottawa have changed dramatically.
“The elderly community is much larger than it was 10 years ago, and the youth community, from ages zero to 14, has shrunk by 500 kids. It is an aging community,” he said.
Chodak, of JF&CS in Toronto, said poverty numbers are rising in the Jewish community for the same reasons they’re going up in the general community.
“The systemic issues that everyone faces in the community, Jewish people face, too. So whether there is a great deal of youth unemployment, we know that newcomers face poverty. We know single parents, when there is a family breakdown, we see single women raising children facing poverty. There are a lot more elderly living in poverty, and there are a great deal of people who are precariously employed,” Chodak said.
“Twenty-two percent of jobs in Ontario are precarious, meaning not stable, not full-time. There is no pension, no union, and these are often the jobs that youth have, that women have, that newcomers get, that older people might have, that the disabled might have, and that is where we are seeing a huge rise in poverty.”
Perhaps the first step to eradicating poverty in the Jewish community is raising awareness about the fact that it is an issue at all, Singer said.
“It’s a myth that we don’t have Jewish poor. The starting point is making the community aware that we are not much better off than the rest of the community at large. We are maybe a percentage point or two below the national average, and that is nothing to be proud of. The fact that we are [also] a well-off and generous, philanthropic community, we should be addressing the problem and helping people,” Singer said.
Robyn Segall, programs and marketing director at Ve’ahavta in Toronto, said she has encountered many people who are shocked to learn there are poor Jews.
“When we talk about our program to serve the homeless, very often the first question is, ‘But are there Jewish homeless? That’s impossible,’” Segall said.
“There certainly are Jewish people living on the streets…. People live on the street for so many different reasons – they’re escaping abuse, they are escaping myriad things, dealing with mental illness and, for each person, there is a different appropriate response, and sometimes what the community has to offer isn’t always what they need.”
Zarecki illustrated the fact that this issue is of vital importance to the Jewish community by referring to a quote he heard from a social- work professor at McGill University that stuck with him.
“A Jew is poor among Jews and Jewish among the poor,” Zarecki said. “So poverty has two impacts. It marginalizes Jews because they are not fully accepted within the Jewish community, and they are not fully accepted in the poor community [either].”
Zarecki also suspects that the Jewish poverty rate is higher than is being reported. “When you look at government statistics, they don’t include Jewish quality of life. What I mean by that is, for somebody who wants to affiliate with the community, it costs money. Eating kosher food, sending a child to a Jewish school, going to a synagogue, living near a Jewish facility – often the rents are higher in an area where there is a concentration of Jews,” he said.
“My thesis is that Jewish poverty increases assimilation…. That is why it is incumbent on Jewish communities to reach out to low-income people because … they will vanish from the community if they’re not reached out to.”
– For more national Jewish news, visit cjnews.com.
In late August, a $250 million fund for Jewish child survivors of the Holocaust was established. (photo from Memorial de la Shoah, Paris, via claimscon.org/2014/09/child-survivors)
On Wednesday, Aug. 27, a symposium was held at the Centrum Judaicum in Berlin. The topic was Lost Childhood, referring to the impact of the Shoah on Jewish children who survived and continue to live with its consequences to this day. The audience was comprised of German government officials, members of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, and child survivors of the Holocaust.
Among those present were members of the negotiating committee, including Ambassador Colette Avital from Israel, Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat from the United States, Roman Kent, treasurer of the Claims Conference, and Greg Schneider, who serves as executive vice-president of the Claims Conference. From Germany, representative Rüdiger Mahlo and deputy director of negotiations Konrad Matschke were in attendance, as was Stefanie Seltzer, president of the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust and Descendants, and Max Arpels Lezer, its European representative.
A variety of speakers, from historians to psychiatrists, politicians to psychoanalysts, participated in order to press the case for restitution to previously overlooked Jewish children, now aging in trying circumstances connected directly to their early childhood deprivations and traumas. The negotiations following the symposium took place on Aug. 28, and resulted in the recognition of child survivors as a distinct entity deserving of restitution. Mahlo noted, “German politics has been made aware of the particular fate of the child survivors and its negotiations with the German government, the Claims Conference succeeded in establishing a Child Survivor Fund. With this, the loss of childhood is recognized for the first time as a case of damage.”
A fund of $250 million was established for Jewish child survivors worldwide. My address, entitled The Continuing Struggle to Survive After Survival, follows:
I stand before you keenly aware that I am here only because of a narrow escape from those who sought to murder me. As a Jewish child born in 1940 in The Hague, Holland, my family was ordered to report on Aug. 19, 1942, for “resettlement to the east.” That meant being assembled at Westerbork and, from there, deported primarily to Auschwitz or Sobibor.
My mother and I would have been killed shortly after arrival. Mothers with babies were doomed. One hundred and eight thousand Dutch Jews were sent to the factories of death. About 5,500 returned.
I stand before you keenly aware that I am in Berlin, the city in which were conceived the most grotesque crimes in human history. It was here that the minds of well-educated and presumably civilized Germans formulated plans for the annihilation of Europe’s Jews: men, women and children. And, by war’s end, in German occupied countries, 93 percent of Jewish children had been murdered.
I survived in the care of my Dutch Christian rescuers, Albert and Violette Munnik and their daughter, Nora, who I shall visit in The Hague in two weeks. Nora is 83 years old, nearly the age of Anne Frank had she lived. But the Frank family was betrayed and deported on the last train to leave Holland, on Sept. 3, 1944, destination Auschwitz.
And I stand before you also aware of the great strides that Germany has made to preserve this history and to remember not only what it has done but to teach this history to succeeding generations, indeed, to the world.
For those who pose the question concerning whether there are long-term consequences, a story. One day, my mother, in her mid-80s, suddenly apologized for giving me away into hiding. I was stunned. I told her she had been heroic; there was nothing to apologize for. Her response, “When I left you, you tried to follow me pulling a little suitcase, and I looked into your eyes and knew you would never forgive me.”
And it is true. She was so smart. She knew that having saved my life through her uncommon courage that I would nevertheless be unable to truly forgive her for abandoning me. A child cannot comprehend the reasons for such a rejection. That, we learn only as adults. We live with such complexities, we Holocaust children.
What was done to us involved not only physical annihilation. Those who survived also experienced the touch of death, the murder of the soul. My parents, who miraculously survived in frightening circumstances, never recovered. How could they?
In 1945, my father learned that his parents and two sisters were dead; my mother was informed that her parents, two brothers and little sister were dead. And so, there were three of us. Only the son of one of my father’s sisters survived also.
We spent those postwar years in shock. While Dutch citizens resumed their lives, traumatized by years of occupation but largely intact, Dutch Jews were shattered. I saw them. They came to our home, some with whip lashes on their backs. I heard them describe the horrors of the camps, the smell of the crematoria. It was too much for a little boy aged 5 or 6. And you may ask, even today, were there consequences and did they last all these years? The answer is, “What was done to us, never, ever left us. The Shoah envelops us like a shroud. But we put it aside so that we can function as if normal.”
For children under the age of 16 in 1945, there was little help. Most surviving children were orphaned and housed in orphanages or shelters such as Ecouis in France, where 426 boys from Buchenwald were looked after by the OSE [Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants]. And yes, of these boys told by a psychiatrist or psychologist that they would never recover, the majority led productive lives, even attained great achievements. They included Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, a chief rabbi of Israel, George Goldbloom, a U.S. businessman, and Kalman Kalikstein, a physicist who worked with Einstein.
But who can say that they recovered from the Shoah? Elie Wiesel, who devotes his life to healing, injustice and Holocaust remembrance and education? Rabbi Lau, who is now the director of Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s Holocaust Remembrance Authority? Their lives remain rooted in Holocaust memories. The Holocaust’s imprint was too traumatic to overcome, too painful for healing, and medical professionals shied away from us in the postwar years. There was no help.
Think of it. Before the war, every psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and psychologist focused on the traumas visited upon a child in the developmental years. Anna Freud discussed the vulnerability of a child’s ego. One symptom, and therapists recommended years of individual or play group therapy to heal children suffering from anxieties. But postwar, where was this legion of therapists? They were nowhere to be seen. They were not prepared to deal with us, we were the carriers of traumas too great to confront.
We left for Canada in 1951 and I set about becoming a normal Canadian. With after-school jobs and summer work, I put myself through medical school, then psychiatry in Philadelphia and Stanford, and became professor of child psychiatry at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
In the 1970s, Holocaust survivors brought me their children and I worked with Holocaust survivor families struggling with overwhelming memories, some of which complicated the lives of the entire family. I helped some of the adults fill out restitution forms. A particularly poor and troubled survivor patient who had worked in the mines as a slave laborer, and who lost eight brothers and sisters, was awarded $1,300. I was furious upon hearing this. He saw it differently: “They acknowledged my suffering. They owned up to what they did to me.” I learned from him that reparation is not just about money, it is also about justice.
I soon discovered that Holocaust survivors who sought restitution were, in many instances, directed toward German psychiatrists for evaluation. Can you imagine it?
One child taken by her mother in an effort to obtain some financial help faced a particularly gruff doctor who yelled at her in German. This particular child, who, when hidden with a Polish family, had sat in total silence under a dining table at which German soldiers had a meal. Had she spoken, moved or coughed, her death was inevitable. And, years later, she endured this harsh treatment from a German physician. Dr. Kurt Eissler, in his powerful article “Perverted Psychiatry” in the American Journal of Psychiatry (1967), cites instances of reparations exams performed by appointed German psychiatrists:
“A Jewish woman aged 23 years lost her father and two younger sisters upon arrival in Auschwitz. She went through four concentration camps in which she often had to collect corpses. Amongst her complaints during examination were lack of initiative, difficulty in concentrating, poor memory and hypermnestic preoccupation with traumatic events. The psychiatrist’s diagnosis was ‘anxiety neurosis, unconnected with the persecution.’
“A woman was interviewed whose parents, brother, three sisters with their children, husband and 8-year-old daughter had been killed during the course of the persecutions. She herself spent years in a ghetto and in several concentration camps and had frequently been beaten to unconsciousness. She complained of depression, anxiety, phobia, feelings of guilt. The doctor denied any connection between these symptoms and the experience of persecution. He included in his report, ‘despite such grave experiences, of which no one is spared, most people continue their lives and have no chronic depressions.’”
It may stretch belief, but these psychiatrists frequently attributed the excruciating symptoms of atrocity to the patient’s prewar personality or to that of their upbringing.
It is no wonder that children who survived the Shoah all but disappeared into their own lives. The few who tried to talk were told that, as children, they had no memories and, therefore, did not suffer; or, if it looked like they were suffering, were told to forget it and get on with their lives. The comparative few who applied for compensation were humiliated and shamed again.
I got on with my life. My Holocaust preoccupations never stopped. I did not let on. But, when I presented myself for a Dutch restitution program to personally experience the process, the examiner, a pleasant lady representing the Netherlands, asked me why I thought I should seek compensation. After all, her Dutch husband had been a child during the war and he did not need any help. She did not even recognize that her non-Jewish husband suffered neither loss of family nor required hiding, at risk of discovery and death. Yes, he was hungry also.
As protocol dictated, she referred me for a psychological interview. I felt confident. After all, I was a 60-year-old professor of psychiatry, successful in my career and with a lovely family. I was asked the reason for my assessment and then I cried for two hours. I remained in therapy for five years.
I became deeply involved in the self-discovery of child survivors and our emergence as a distinct group of Holocaust survivors that culminated in the 1991 Hidden Child Conference in New York. From 1982, I worked with Prof. Sarah Moskovitz, author of Love Despite Hate, concerning 24 child survivors found in Terezin and brought to England for their recovery, and followed up by her nearly 40 years later. In 1982-83, I helped found the Los Angeles Child Survivor group and we began to write about child Holocaust survivors and their coping skills and adaptation.
In the course of that work, we defined child survivors generally as those children who were aged 16 and under by 1945, and we also examined restitution issues concerning children.
In 1998, Sarah and I coordinated a survey of child survivors to inquire about their experiences for war-related consequences. One thousand questionnaires were sent out. At that time, child survivors were aged mid-50s to mid-60s and were asked, “As you look back on your life, how do you think you were affected by your Holocaust experiences in childhood, physically, socially, emotionally, educationally and economically?” Six hundred and sixty-four child survivors responded.
The general findings revealed a staggering number of separations from parents with three-quarters of fathers and two-thirds of mothers never returning. More than half of respondents lost both parents.
Three-quarters of the child survivors in this survey reported themselves to have suffered serious to severe lifelong effects emotionally as a result of their traumatic past.
With respect to restitution, there were at that time, six main road blocks to obtaining restitution.
Missed deadlines: Many children did not know how to make claims. Nor did they know if their families had property or insurance. Children placed in adoptive or foster homes were not in touch with the community. They were taught not to think of themselves as survivors. When they did, it was too late to apply. According to our survey, over half never applied or had applied and been rejected. One third of those who applied received a one-time lump sum payment, one half of them less than $700 US.
Documentation requirements: In most cases, young children had neither the knowledge nor resources to obtain proof of country of origin, birth certificates, death certificates or names of witnesses. As one respondent stated, “First they killed my family and now they want proof that they existed.”
Time requirements for those in hiding or in ghettos: In order to qualify, a child was required to have been in closed hiding (confined) for 18 months. “Open” hiding (able to be outside) did not warrant restitution – as if these children had not also suffered loss of home, family, identity and religion, leaving them with feelings of abandonment, identity confusion and loyalty conflicts. A 1987 study by Moskovitz had also revealed that over one half of child survivors in hiding were harshly treated, beaten, and one in five were sexually abused.
Time requirements for six months in concentration camp: In Treblinka and Majdanek, young children were unlikely to live more than one day. In Auschwitz, the majority of adults lived no longer than three months. It raises the question, “How many days in Auschwitz are required for the experience to have left its mark on a child?”
The means test: One’s economic status was required to be at poverty level, precisely the persons who cannot afford legal advice or the resources to pursue rightful compensation. Even today, the annual net income for residents of Canada to meet the income eligibility requirement for a monthly pension is $29,103.
Requirement to be interviewed by German psychiatrists: Under certain circumstances, such as continuation of pension, an interview is arranged with a German psychiatrist rather than simply a board-certified psychiatric practitioner. This raises a single question: Where any Jewish child survived the Nazi occupation, what could possibly be grounds for discontinuing a pension? Each and every child has suffered enormous losses, profound disruptions, fear and malnourishment, and lifelong consequences.
To summarize, in our survey, child survivors reported themselves, despite personal successes and achievements, as seriously and permanently affected to this day: emotionally, 81 percent; socially, 69 percent; educationally, 66 percent; physically, 67 percent; economically, 65 percent.
We are 15 years beyond our 1999 survey and child survivors are now aged mid-70s to mid-80s. And, for many, the war’s memories are returning to cripple them once again. For those persons who have had reasonably normal lives, childhood recollections are a nostalgic review of mostly cherished memories. For child Holocaust survivors, it is a trip back into bottomless despair.
It should be noted that in Los Angeles this year there is a shortfall of $1.1 million for the care of Holocaust survivors. This is being raised by the local Jewish community. A typical account follows:
“I am a 78-year-old survivor of the Holocaust. I was a child during the Nazi occupation and I was hidden in the countryside by a Christian farm family. Both of my parents perished in German concentration camps. I immigrated to the United States in the early 1950s.
“I live on a limited income. I receive $800 in monthly income from social security and a $1,100 monthly pension from Holland. I rent a small apartment on the west side of Los Angeles that costs $1,180 per month. I have a lot of medical bills related to hearing loss, arthritis and psychiatric care relating to chronic depression.
“Last year, I was granted about $4,800 from the Holocaust Survivors in Urgent Need Fund. This was a life saver for me. I used the funds to cover dental work and bills relating to my apartment. I am feeling much better and able to eat and chew without pain.”
I suggest you view those who express need with compassion. Do not humiliate them with seeking proof beyond establishing they lived under the Nazi domination and survived. And do what is right and just to ensure their remaining years are dignified.
Remember that it is not only about establishing a degree of
financial security. It is also about assuring a measure of justice. And justice demands an official acknowledgement by responsible governments, particularly those that collaborated in the murders of my people.
It is growing late in the day. Our sun is setting.
Zionism promised to make the desert bloom. Of course, as they were literally making this happen, the chalutzim could not have imagined the figurative blooming that would come decades later, when Israelis would lead the world in new technologies and other economic innovations.
A new report from Credit Suisse quantifies just how successful Israel has been. And while it isn’t a surprise, in some ways, it is a symbol of astonishing achievement when taken in historical context.
The Swiss bank’s Global Wealth Report takes into account the assets, minus debt, of households and individuals, including savings, real estate and investments. By this measure, Israelis are the sixth wealthiest people in the Middle East and Asia, bested only by Australia, Singapore, Japan, New Zealand and Taiwan. With a per capita net worth between $150,000 and $175,000, Israelis are on par with, or exceed, the average European. And the wealth is distributed more evenly than it is in the United States. Not only that, but the trajectory is especially impressive for Israelis, with assets growing about 14 percent in the past year. (In Canada and the United States, the world’s wealthiest region, the average net worth of an adult is $340,000.)
The tiny country with effectively no natural resources, facing adversity and existential threat since its inception, has built a thriving economy that delivers for its citizens economic outcomes that exceed its oil-rich neighbors.
Of course, Israel’s detractors will not be impressed. Economic success is anathema to many of those who seek to boycott, divest from and sanction the Jewish state. To BDS supporters, every Israeli success is merely proof of misbegotten advantage due to exploitation or imperialism or worse.
Yet all the economic and social misery that surrounds Israel can be attributed in part back to the fatal decision nearly seven decades ago by the Arab League to have no truck nor trade with the Jews.
It is not a coincidence that the Credit Suisse report considers Canada and the United States in a single unit. Our economies are integrated enough to enjoy synergies (and yet distinct enough that the full impact of the 2008 global recession did not slam Canada as hard as it did the United States).
Were Israel as integrated into its regional economy as Canada’s is in ours, the economic miracle it represents could have spawned parallel, related success stories all around it. It still could.
A few voices in the Arab Middle East are finally speaking up to suggest that the decades-long isolation of Israel should end. Such a rapprochement would be good for Israel, to put it mildly. But it would be economically beneficial for the entire region. If economic self-interest were the defining impetus for Arab Middle East foreign policy, peace might be not so distant a dream.
Starting a small business can be an exciting prospect that brings with it the potential to be your own boss, follow your passion and create passive income for retirement.
But even the best ideas that generate strong markets can fail if the financial structure doesn’t have a solid foundation. That’s why every new-business owner should make their first priority collecting advice from experts in business planning.
This is especially true if you are looking for startup capital. Most people think three options – personal, family/friends or a bank – are the only sources of funding available. Often overlooked are specific small-business loans and grants from the federal government.
Eli Joseph, a senior account manager, business and personal, with RBC, is often surprised at how few people know about government funding options.
Joseph works with businesses on day-to-day banking, as well as lending solutions through the Canada Small Business Financing Loan (CSBFL) or the Business Development Bank of Canada.
Clients who fall in the “small business” category typically have gross sales under $2 million, with fewer than 15 employees, and who need loans up to $250,000.
“Ninety-eight percent fall under this category,” he said.
The CSBFL has very specific applications, however, such as investing in new equipment or trucks, buying furniture or expanding a business. It won’t cover the cost of hiring staff, a franchise fee or planning a marketing campaign. For that, Joseph suggests looking at a line of credit.
But even before signing up for some fresh cash, Joseph cautions business owners to take stock of where they are.
“Ninety percent start their business asking for money,” said Joseph. “I try to slow down the conversation, I ask, ‘Do we have a business here?’ There were three examples where we had to slow it down and go through the numbers; in all three, after doing footwork, they realized they didn’t have a valid business.
“That’s where people jump the gun – they haven’t done the research; and they don’t have a business plan.”
Tax planner Alexei Schwartzman also underlines how important it is to get professional advice before heading too far into the business.
“It is important to involve someone who understands the tax implication of the business, but it’s essential to get someone involved before the business is officially running,” he said. “Often people do not think of asking the questions until they are already operational and, by that point, it might be too late for certain things.”
This is particularly important if your business has an innovative component that might be eligible for tax credits through the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program (also known as SR&ED). Businesses wanting to take advantage of this government credit need to incorporate before incurring research and development costs. A good tax consultant can help determine if the cost of incorporation and filing SR&ED tax returns, which can be substantial, will be worth the actual money saved.
Also be sure to look at the Public Works and Government Services Canada’s Build in Canada Innovation Program (buyandsell.gc.ca), as well as the National Research Council Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/eng/ irap/index.html). Both of these have loans and grants that help kickstart businesses to get their innovative products and services from the lab to the marketplace.
No matter what type of funding you’re looking for, both Schwartzman and Joseph agree that the biggest mistakes business owners make are not having a business plan, not doing proper market research or trying to do everything themselves rather than turning for advice to experts who have already done the legwork.
For general information on government loans/tax credits for small business, contact Rob McGarry, concierge service, National Research Council Canada, c/o Small Business BC, 601 West Cordova St., 604-499-2804, [email protected], concierge.portal.gc.ca.
Baila Lazarusteaches media communications at Small Business BC. Register for her courses at phase2coaching.com.
Oct. 30: Money Money Money: How to Get It, Manage It and Grow It, a keynote session highlighting how to access different levels of financing to support your business, presented by Futurpreneur as part of the all-day SOHO SME Business Expo at the Sheraton Wall Centre. vancouversme.soho.ca.
Nov. 6, 13 and 20, 10:30 a.m.-noon: How to Do Business with the Federal Government, three-part series at Small Business BC, 601 West Cordova St. smallbusinessbc.ca/seminars.
One of the most controversial operas in recent memory, The Death of Klinghoffer, debuted Oct. 20 at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The Met has scheduled seven more performances through November. The first staging did not occur without protest, as about 400 demonstrators – including Jewish communal and nationally recognized leaders – came to Lincoln Centre to denounce the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel opera.
Klinghoffer, the creation of composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman, premièred in 1991, with few additional stagings. The opera is based on the 1985 murder of a 69-year-old American Jew, Leon Klinghoffer, on an Italian cruise ship. Klinghoffer, confined to a wheelchair, was shot in the head by Palestinian Arab terrorists who had hijacked the ship. They dumped his body into the Mediterranean Sea.
The opera repeatedly defames Jews and Israelis as representatives of religious/ethnic or national groups. Nowhere does it similarly criticize Arabs/Muslims as a group. The Met’s intransigent insistence that Klinghoffer must be staged has become an organizational calamity.
Adams and Goodman make up an aptly matched pair. Their Jewish problem seems to include an obsession with what they imagine to be Jewish guilt. This should not be surprising on the part of Goodman, perhaps, since, during the writing of Klinghoffer, she rejected her American Jewish heritage and joined the Anglican Church. The church’s leadership has been known in recent years for its hostility toward Israel. Goodman is now a parish priest in England.
But is Klinghoffer the only Adams/Goodman opera that contains elements of antiemitism, including the stereotypical notion of Jewish guilt?
Consider the Adams/Goodman opera Nixon in China (world première 1987, Met première 2011). It offered relatively humane depictions of President Richard M. Nixon and Chinese leader Mao Zedong – a mass murderer on the scale of a Hitler or Stalin – but not a similarly sympathetic picture of U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a Jew. In a 1988 review of the opera, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Tim Page wrote that Kissinger is depicted as “a venal, jabbering, opportunistic buffoon.” Others remarked that Kissinger is portrayed as cruel and cunning.
A bizarre, memorable scene involving Kissinger occurs in the second act. In a propagandistic ballet staged by Madame Mao for the Nixon entourage, First Lady Pat Nixon thinks she sees Kissinger playing an evil landlord savagely whipping a poor village girl. Not seeing Kissinger in the audience or at the Nixon family table, Mrs. Nixon points to the landlord while whispering to her husband, “Doesn’t that look like you-know-who?” Indeed, the singer who plays the role of Kissinger also plays the role of the evil landlord.
Then there is the Adams opera Doctor Atomic (world première 2005, Met première 2008). Its storyline centres on Jewish American scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, often called the “father of the atomic bomb” for leading the Manhattan Project during the Second World War. The project developed the nuclear weapons that incinerated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing more than 100,000 people and causing Japan to surrender to the United States, thus ending the war earlier than would have otherwise been the case. The earlier end potentially saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of other lives on both sides.
Adams and librettists Goodman and Peter Sellars depict Oppenheimer as consumed with guilt and torn with remorse. Did they exaggerate here? According to a 1967 New York Times report, Oppenheimer was “beset by the moral consequences of the bomb, which, he told fellow physicists, had ‘dramatized so mercilessly the inhumanity and evil of modern war’ … [but] in later years, he seemed to indicate that the ‘sin’ was not to be taken personally. ‘I carry no weight on my conscience,’ he said in 1961 in reference to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
Defenders of The Death of Klinghoffer seem either unaware or unconcerned about any of the several instances of the opera’s anti-Jewish and inflammatory lyrics. Some of these were cited by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America in an open letter to Met general manager Peter Gelb on May 29, 2014. The letter helped spark initial protests against staging Klinghoffer and resulted in the cancellation of a Nov. 15 large-screen simulcast of the opera that would have been viewed live by hundreds of thousands of people in theaters in 70 countries.
Klinghoffer defenders treat the libretto – the text sung and spoken in the opera – as proving nothing. Instead, they seem to either misunderstand, or misuse as camouflage, the concept of “artistic freedom.” It is possible to defend Klinghoffer on artistic grounds, but the art involved is the low variety of the propagandist, not the high art of worthwhile opera. The defenders act as if neither the libretto nor the music matters much. In fact, while the lyrics recycle some of the worst antisemitic canards, the music is mediocre and unremarkable except for the propagandistic way it is used by Adams to underscore words of the Palestinian hijackers. This was pointed out by eminent American musicologist Richard Taruskin in a December 2001 New York Times article strongly condemning the Adams opera, headlined “Music’s dangers and the case for control.”
The Death of Klinghoffer is a vehicle for tendentious reiteration of antisemitic and anti-Zionist slurs. But this opera, when considered together with the other two Adams/Goodman opera collaborations mentioned here, represents something more – a prejudicial obsession with Jews.
Myron Kaplanis a senior research analyst for the Boston-based, 65,000-member Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. This article was originally published by jns.org.
Left to right: Bo Rothstein, CFHU Vancouver president Randy Milner, Prof. Michal Shur-Ofry and Justice Bruce Cohen. (photo by Michelle Dodek)
The main boardroom at Farris was full of lawyers who had come to hear Prof. Michal Shur-Ofry of the law faculty at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The Oct. 6 event began with a brief presentation by University of British Columbia law professor Christie Ford on her experience at Hebrew University in the spring as part of the Mitchell Gropper Law Faculty Professorship Exchange. Bo Rothstein, a partner at Farris, gave a warm welcome and introduced the keynote speaker, an internationally recognized expert in intellectual property (IP).
Shur-Ofry’s lecture was titled From Newton to Shechtman: Can Intellectual Property Facilitate Nonlinear Innovation? She told the story of Dr. Dan Shechtman, an Israeli researcher who observed “quasicrystals” in 1982, a discovery that scientists were convinced was impossible; Shechtman nearly lost his career as a result of publishing his findings. In 2011, however, he was vindicated when he was awarded a Nobel Prize in chemistry for this discovery. The dramatic story of this Israeli Nobel laureate illustrates aspects of nonlinear innovation, those that shift existing paradigms.
Another example of such a paradigm shift, said Shur-Ofry, was the introduction of cubism by the artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Their movement away from the representational depictions that had previously dominated art was at first ridiculed. Once accepted, however, their innovative contributions became a crucial building block of 20th-century art and beyond.
The world is currently biased against radical innovators, Shur-Ofry maintained, but she believes that “a de-biasing mechanism” is possible through IP law. This area of law, which encompasses copyright and patent law, can help artists, scientists and other innovators to be brave and to contribute their novel innovations without the kinds of risk taken by the Picassos or Shechtmans, she said.
“If an artist first sells a piece for just $900, and then it is resold for $85,000, the artist is entitled to a share of that sale price.”
Citing droit de suite, a law adopted by the European Union and 70 other countries that gives artists protection by entitling them to part of the proceeds of subsequent sales of their art, Shur-Ofry explained by way of example, “If an artist first sells a piece for just $900, and then it is resold for $85,000, the artist is entitled to a share of that sale price.” She acknowledged that while this type of remuneration exacts a cost on doing business, its benefit to artists who are innovators can drive others to produce novel works, instead of commercially proven, formulaic art.
It is this type of law, along with other incentives to inventors, that Shur-Ofry champions. She described patent laws that would grant access to the successful results of works protected through patents, as well as the “negative knowledge” that results in even greater innovation and discovery. Great problems are often solved by discovering an error in the paradigm, she explained. Therefore, access to the challenges and roadblocks in developing technologies may be the key to solving even greater problems. She said that she hopes to convince lawmakers that changing IP laws will encourage non-linear innovation and be universally beneficial.
The Mitchell Gropper Law Faculty Professorship Exchange facilitates annual exchange between Hebrew University and UBC law professors, and enables annual lectures by visiting Hebrew University law professors. For more information about the exchange or the programming of CFHU in Vancouver, visit cfhu.org or contact executive director Dina Wachtel at 604-257-5133.