Remembering Simone Veil

Simone Veil. Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen.

By Frances Novack
Simone Veil, the Auschwitz survivor and France’s Health Minister, died at the age of 89. As Health Minister, she fought for laws that changed the lives of millions and which revealed the power for good an extraordinary woman can wield.   Veil, who passed away on June 30, was a staunch defender of the European project, which promotes integrated economic legislation to make Europe a political union, as well as a key figure in her own country’s reforms focusing on women’s health.  
Deported to Auschwitz with her mother and a sister at l6, Simone Jacob survived the “death march” and became determined to better the world.
After the war, she studied at the famous Institut d’etudes politiques  (Sciences Po)  in Paris, where she met and then married Antoine Veil. She passed the competitive exam to become a magistrate, and was surprised when in 1974, then-Prime Minister Jacques Chirac asked her to be Health Minister.  Here she improved access to contraception and aided people with disabilities.  But her greatest distinction — and fiercest battle — was for passage of the law legalizing abortion in 1975, still called the Veil Law today. Vilified by many — one opponent accused her of wanting to put babies ‘in the oven” — she spoke movingly before the French Parliament, where she  “apologized” for bringing women’s point of view to the virtually all-male assembly, insisting that every abortion remained a tragedy, but that it was necessary. No woman ever makes that decision lightly, she asserted, but women do have to make it.

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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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PJFF Double Feature: “Supergirl” and “Bar Mitzvah Project”

Both the documentary feature “Supergirl” and the documentary short “Bar Mitzvah Project” tell the story of strong characters: in one, it’s a 95-pound female teenage powerlifter, and in the other, it’s a Holocaust survivor who managed to live through three concentration camps.

Supergirl
Naomi Kutin seems like a typical teenage girl. She goes to school, does her homework, hangs out with friends — but how many 11-year-olds do you know who could honestly claim to be “supergirl,” the strongest girl in the world?

Raised in an Orthodox Jewish family, 95-pound Naomi is a competitive powerlifter who lifts nearly triple her bodyweight. Under the tutelage of her powerlifting father, Naomi has broken world records in this testosterone-fueled sport since the age of 8, astonishing spectators and lifters alike. Now, along with preparing for her bat mitzvah and training for the biggest competition of her life, Naomi is faced with new challenges, like navigating difficult dietary restrictions, cyber-bullying and coping with a debilitating health issue that may cost her the world record. As Naomi comes of age and confronts these issues head on, the magnitude of her true strength and character is revealed.

Jessie Auritt, the director of “Supergirl,” will give an introduction to the film.

Bar Mitzvah Projectbar-mitzvah-project-hr-pic-1-1-768x789
Bar Mitzvah boy Benji Elkins of Bala Cynwyd interviews Dr. George Horner, a Holocaust survivor who relates his miraculous story of surviving three Nazi concentration camps and a “march of death.” Dr. Horner describes how the Nazis literally broke his back, ending his dreams of becoming a professional pianist. However, they did not succeed in breaking his spirit. In “Bar Mitzvah Project,” we witness Horner perform a moving rendition of “The Terezin March,” a piece of music composed for piano inside the Terezin camp.

The guest speakers for this film screening are Iris Drechsler (moderator), the PJFF artistic chair, and Benji Elkins, the young man who directed and starred in the film.

Buy tickets here. The ticket price covers both films.

Philadelphia FIDF Gala to Honor Holocaust Survivors


Left to right: Lt. Gen. (Res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, executive director of the FIDF Pennsylvania & Southern N.J. region, Tzvia Wexler, and Ambassador Ron Prosor in last year’s national FIDF gala, New York.

Local Holocaust survivors and their families will be honored at this year’s Annual Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF) Gala.

The gala will take place at 6 p.m. Monday, November 18, 2013 at Vie, 600 North Broad Street, Philadelphia. Tickets can be purchased at the gala’s website. Holocaust survivors who wish to take part may contact FIDF Pennsylvania and Southern N.J. executive director, Tzvia Wexler.

The theme of this year’s Gala is “From Holocaust to Independence,” and it will celebrate Israel’s 65 years of existence by saluting the survivors and remembering the struggles they overcame to build new lives, providing a future for the next generation.  

Former chief of the IDF general staff, Lt. General (Res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, will deliver an exclusive Keynote address.

More after the jump.
The FIDF was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors with the mission of providing and supporting educational, social, cultural, and recreational programs and facilities for the men and women of the IDF. Today, FIDF has more than 120,000 supporters, and 17 regional offices throughout the U.S. and Panama.

Prior to being appointed as the IDF’s chief of staff in 2007, Lt. General Ashkenazi has had an illustrious military career, that included:

  • Commander of Golani Brigade,
  • commander of liaison unit to Lebanon,
  • operations officer of Northern Command,
  • head of Israeli Northern Command, and
  • director general of Israeli Ministry of Defense.

In 2008, he was awarded the U.S. Legion of Merit by the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, on behalf of the President of the U.S. for enhancing U.S.-Israel relations.