Holocaust Survivors Travel With IDF Officers to Poland and Israel

Miroslawa Gruszczynska (left) and Holocaust survivor Miri Amir. Photo credit: Shahar Azran.

Miroslawa Gruszczynska (left) and Holocaust survivor Miri Amir. Photo credit: Shahar Azran.

Auschwitz-Birkenau survivor Bronia Brandman, 86, returned to the death camp for the first time since her liberation. Holocaust survivor Miri Amir was reunited yesterday with Miroslawa Gruszczynska, the woman whose family — awarded the title “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem — hid her from the Nazis in Poland during World War II. Both of these emotionally charged events took place during a trip to Poland by Holocaust survivors, officers from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and a delegation of 40 supporters of the organization Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF). During the second leg of the journey, the group also traveled together to Israel.

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When we say, ‘Never Again’ we must mean it.

PA Representative Dwight Evans’ statement in response to White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s comments on Adolph Hitler.

Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer mentioned Hitler in reference to the most recent chemical weapons attack by Syrian President Assad and said, “you had someone as despicable as Hitler, who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” This incredibly careless and disrespectful comment demonstrates Mr. Spicer’s clear mischaracterization of history.  Mr. Spicer’s inexcusable comments fall during Passover. We can never tolerate Holocaust denial, but it certainly is in even greater distaste during this reflective and meaningful time for Jewish communities across the US and our globe.  Holocaust denial and a general lack of understanding for communities who have suffered the worst form of persecution throughout our history and those who are still being persecuted today is something we as a nation cannot and will not stand for. I am glad to see Mr. Spicer apologize for his comments yesterday but I repeat when we say, #NeverAgain we mean Never Again.

Watch Sean Spicer’s original comments comparing Hitler and Assad:

Refugee Ban With Holocaust Parallels

“An America which turns away refugees is not America. We forgot that during the Holocaust. Let’s never again forget who we are,” writes Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS. Hetfiled was one of many to point out a compelling coincidence: President Trump issued his controversial refugee ban on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. [Read more…]

Opening Reception for Two Special Gershman Y Exhibits

We invite the public to a reception celebrating the opening of two extraordinary exhibits running concurrently at the Gershman Y: Letters from my Grandparents: The Art of Ruth Schreiber and A Close Look Inside James Shuler Memorial Boxing Gym: Photographs by Jano Cohen.

Gershman Y Exhibit-Ruth-Schrieber-image-1-600x400“Letters from my Grandparents,” which closes March 30, is a mixed-media exhibition that carries substantial history and emotional import. The artist, Ruth Schreiber, has spun her family history into drawings, sculptures, clothing, table settings and more in her ongoing tribute to her grandparents, who perished in the Holocaust but managed to write approximately 200 letters and postcards to their five surviving children between 1939 and 1942.

Enthralled with the famed James Shuler Memorial Boxing Gym in West Philadelphia, photographer Jano Cohen made many visits to the gym over the course of a year, earning members’ trust and photographing the gym’s regulars, teachers and students. The result of this intimate access is a collection of photographs comprising the exhibit “A Close Look Inside James Shuler Memorial Boxing Gym,” brought to the Gershman Y through a collaboration with the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center. This exhibit will close on March 8.

The January 26th opening will include light bites, libations and comments from the artists themselves. You can register for the opening online at GershmanY.org or by calling 215-545-4400.

PJFF Double Feature: “The Kozalchic Affair” and “And Then, Violence”

Two films for the price of one: a documentary feature and a narrative short. In one, an Israeli learns of his father’s unexpected heroic past during the Holocaust; in the other, a young Jewish woman — a law student who lives with her parents — depicts the fear Jews live with in Paris in the current climate of terrorism and increased anti-Semitism.

Buy tickets to these films here.

The Kozalchic Affair
Itzak Shaked, the son of two Holocaust survivors, lived an average life in Israel as an industrialist, until learning the true identity of his father, Yakov Kozalchic.

Known as “The Warden of the Death Block,” Yakov was a Jewish Kapo in Auschwitz who sacrificed his life to save as many of his fellow brethren as he could. His story begins in Poland, but truly takes off in the 1920s when Yakov is found working alongside Al Capone and the infamous German heavyweight Max Schmeling in New York City. From joining the circus as a musician to returning home to start a family in Poland, Yakov seemed to have lived an outrageously full life before seeing it torn apart by the Nazis. Separated from his wife and children, who were imprisoned in Treblinka, Yakov was sent to Auschwitz, where he managed to save himself from the gas chambers through his connections. However, he was unable to escape his placement as Jewish Kapo of Block 11. While carrying out Nazi orders, that if defied were punishable by death, Yakov used the little bit of independence and access he had to benefit his fellow prisoners and save as many Jews and Poles as possible.

Now 68-year-old Itzak embarks on an unforgettable journey to recover his father’s past and meet the people whose lives Yakov changed forever. In Hebrew with English subtitles, “The Kozalchic Affair” tells their stories.

And Then, Violence
Rebecca, a French law student living with her parents in the heart of Paris, runs out to the kosher supermarket to buy wine for a dinner party. However, after the terror attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the recent anti-Semitic attacks occurring in her own neighborhood, Rebecca is far from at ease navigating the streets surrounding her home.

Official selection of the San Francisco, Atlanta and Seattle Jewish Film Festivals, “And Then, Violence” — in French with English subtitles — paints a vivid picture of the complicated reality of anti-Semitism and the subsequent fear Jews experience in Paris every day.

PJFF Film: “Every Face Has a Name”

A refugee boat docks in the harbor of Malmöš, Sweden, on April 28, 1945. Swedish newspaper photographers are on the scene to document the influx of its diverse group of German concentration camp survivors. The faces among the crowd belong to Jewish refugees from all over Europe: Polish mothers and children, Norwegian prisoners of war, members of the French Resistance, British spies, and perhaps the most unique among them, an Italian-American who was visiting her grandparents in Italy when the Nazis mistook her for an espionage agent and deported her to Auschwitz.

In “Every Face Has a Name,” director Magnus Gertten tracks down many of the previously anonymous individuals featured in Gustaf Boge Claredio’s black-and-white film reel (originally shot for broadcast on Swedish National Television) and asks them to discover themselves anew via the archival footage captured of their extraordinary entry into Sweden. Their profound recollections of being ferried to liberation are not only miraculous and moving, but offer a poignant window into the experiences of current refugees seeking asylum in Europe and around the world. This fascinating documentary, which was awarded the Church of Sweden’s significant cash prize at Gothenburg Film Festival, interweaves present-day images of war evacuees from Africa and the Middle East to remind us of our collective responsibility toward sheltering displaced persons regardless of homeland.

Buy tickets here.

The Arnold and Esther Tuzman Memorial Holocaust Teach-In

This biennial event draws hundreds of people to Gratz College for an afternoon of special programming on the Holocaust and genocide. Particularly exciting this year is the keynote address, which is being delivered by Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, the Emory University professor and expert on Holocaust denial, who was sued for libel in the United Kingdom for labeling English historian David Irving a Holocaust denier. Lipstadt’s trial is the subject of the new motion picture “Denial.”

The keynote address will be followed by two sessions in which participants can choose among a list of seminars on a wide range of topics, including music from the Holocaust, survivor stories, discussions of other genocides and much more. Hawa Abdallah Mohammed Salih, a survivor of genocide in Darfur who was presented the International Women of Courage Award by Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, will share her experiences during one of these seminars. See the brochure for all seminar descriptions.

Schedule: Special programming for teachers begins at 9 a.m. Doors open for the main program at 1 p.m., with the program beginning at 1:30.

Admission Fees: General admission is $10; higher fees for teachers and attorneys seeking professional education credit.


PJFF Film: “The Last Laugh”

Can humor be found in the darkest of places? For comedians, the Holocaust has often been considered a taboo subject, a no man’s land for jokes — a place you don’t want to go as an entertainer. In “The Last Laugh,” a filmmaker sets out to challenge this assumption and find out if joking about the Holocaust and other human atrocities is ever acceptable.

Juxtaposing clips from films, performances and interviews with top comedians and prominent Jewish leaders (including Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Joan Rivers, Louis C.K., Susie Essman, Judy Gold, Abraham Foxman and Shalom Auslander) with an intimate profile of Auschwitz survivor Renee Firestone (as well as other survivors), director Ferne Pearlstein weaves together a poignant and in-depth exploration into what is and is not off-limits in comedy.

A powerful documentary about a controversial subject, “The Last Laugh” in no way undermines the horrors of the Holocaust, yet it still succeeds in putting a smile on your face. After all, what can be more heartening than witnessing the resiliency of the human spirit in the face of tragedy?

This film was an official selection of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival.

Special Event: The film is followed by panel discussion and reception. The guest speakers are the film’s director, Ferne Pearlstein; Paul Lewis, author and professor of English at Boston College; and Elliot Ratzman (moderator), visiting assistant professor in the Department of Religion at Swarthmore College. There has also been an exciting last-minute addition to this list of special guests: the Emmy Award-winning comic Judy Gold.

Buy tickets here.