From: Dov Smith []
Sent: June 22, 2005 12:58 PM
To: Mike Fegelman
Subject: JTA Complete (June 21, 2005)


-----Original Message-----

From: JTA Newsdesk <>

Sent: Mon Jun 20 20:35:12 2005

Subject: JTA Complete (June 21, 2005)


Tuesday, June 21, 2005




The U.N. at 60


Museum looks at history of 'Protocols'


German's vandalism has political message


Czech town hosts historic bat mitzvah


Recovering a Polish Jewish past




*     Palestinian terrorists killed an Israeli in the West Bank. Yevgeny

Rider, 28, from the Hermesh settlement, was shot in the forehead Monday

while driving, and a 16-year-old passenger was wounded. Islamic Jihad

claimed responsibility for the attack. In the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian

woman was caught trying to smuggle a bomb into Israel through the Erez

border crossing. Media reports described her as a member of the

Palestinians' ruling Fatah Party who was due to receive treatment in an

Israeli hospital.


*     The United States and European Union issued a joint declaration

calling on the Palestinians to quash terrorism and on Israel to freeze

settlements. The statement was issued Monday after President Bush met with

E.U. Council President Jean-Claude Juncker, E.U foreign policy chief Javier

Solana and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Also Monday,

the U.S. State Department said the Palestinian Authority must act against

terrorism after terrorists killed an Israeli soldier and an Israeli civilian

in recent days.


*     A Jerusalem yeshiva student was arrested after trying to block Ariel

Sharon's motorcade. The suspect threw himself in front of a security vehicle

accompanying the Israeli prime minister's car in Jerusalem on Monday,

witnesses said. The motorcade circumvented him while a police car gave

chase. Under interrogation, the suspect said he merely heckled Sharon.


*     The international organization of the Likud Party issued a legal

challenge to Ariel Sharon. World Likud, home to a strong faction that

opposes the Israeli prime minister's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip,

is arguing that Sharon did not follow proper procedure in nominating

Ra'anana Mayor Zeev Bielski to head the Jewish Agency for Israel and the

World Zionist Organization, Ha'aretz reported. In nominating Bielski, Sharon

didn't first consult with World Likud, which Sunday chose former Cabinet

minister Natan Sharansky as its candidate. Sharansky and Bielski are

scheduled to appear in Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday.


*     The Reform and Conservative movements on Monday endorsed Zeev

Bielski's candidacy to head the Jewish Agency for Israel. The Zionist

organizational arms of the liberal movements are in Jerusalem for the annual

gathering of the Zionist General Council. The movements' support was

expected to bolster Bielski's chances of being elected JAFI chairman during

a meeting of the agency's general assembly and its board of governors next



*     Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed that this week's summit

meeting would be held in Jerusalem. A final decision on the venue for

Tuesday's talks between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and P.A.

President Mahmoud Abbas had been held up after the Palestinians expressed

displeasure at the prospect of meeting in Israel's capital, which they

demand as the capital of their own future state. Officials said Monday that

the Palestinian Authority relented after Israel made clear that Jerusalem

was the only option.


*     A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee approved funds for

Israel and the Palestinians. The powerful Appropriations Committee's foreign

operations subcommittee approved standard levels of assistance for a number

of Middle East countries last Thursday and doubled assistance for the

Palestinians, to $150 million, per President Bush's request. That $150

million is in addition to the same amount approved earlier this year in

emergency assistance to the Palestinians. The subcommittee also approved the

expected $2.28 billion in military assistance to Israel, as well as funds

for Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.


*     Two pro-Israel measures were attached to the U.N. reform act passed

by the U.S. House of Representatives. The act, which passed last week and

which recommends funding cuts if the United Nations fails to adopt

accountability reforms, also would expand the Western European and Others

Group at the United Nations to afford Israel permanent membership with full

rights and privileges, said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who authored

the pro-Israel measures. The other pro-Israel measure would withhold funds

commensurate with the cost of running offices "focused on the Palestinian

agenda" until such offices are eliminated or consolidated into other U.N.



*     The Bush administration wants Congress to maintain current levels of

aid to Egypt. "The United States believes that we have the right balance in

the various forms of aid that we grant to Egypt," U.S. Secretary of State

Condoleezza Rice said Monday in a talk at the American University of Cairo.

"We would like the Congress to support the administration's proposal for aid

to Egypt," she added, noting Egypt's contribution to the war on terrorism.


*     An Israeli journalist visited Iran. Orly Azoulai of Yediot Achronot

published an account Monday of a recent trip to the Islamic Republic, in

what appeared to be a first for the Israeli press. Azoulai, who did not say

how she gained an Iranian entry permit, described spending Shabbat with the

Jewish community of Tehran. She described Iran's 30,000 Jews as socially

cohesive and politically insecure, many of them dreaming of joining

relatives in Israel or the United States.


*     An Israeli Arab who defrauded Muslims and Islamic organizations,

including terrorist groups, is pleading with Canadian officials not to

deport him to Israel because he fears for his life. Mohammed Mustaf

Agbareia, a 39-year-old Nazareth native, is known as a career con artist who

has been deported from Canada twice before. He is wanted by law enforcement

authorities in Michigan and New York and has been convicted of fraud in



*     Larry Collins, who co-authored "O Jerusalem," a best-selling account

of Israel's founding, died Monday in France at age 75. Collins, an American,

authored a number of best-selling documentary books with Dominique Lapierre.

"O Jerusalem," published in 1971, was an account, based on a wide range of

interviews and research, of Israel's struggle for independence between the

end of World War II and its founding in 1948.


*     An American journalist who rescued more than 2,000 artists and

writers from the Nazis will be posthumously honored. Varian Fry will have a

street in his hometown of Ridgewood, N.J. named after him in a special

ceremony June 26.


      In 1940 Fry traveled to Vichy France to establish a clandestine

network to rescue refugee intellectuals being persecuted by the Nazis. He

succeeded in saving artists Marc Chagall, Marcell Duchamp, Max Ernst and

Jacques Lipschitz and writers Franz Werfel, Lion Feuchtwanger and Hannah

Arendt, among others.


*     A bar mitzvah boy donated more than $14,000 in gifts to the

UJA-Federation of New York to promote an interethnic Israeli soccer league.

New Yorker Jesse Graff's donation, through the UJA's "Give a Mitzvah-Do a

Mitzvah Project," will pay for the finals of the Israel Association of

Community Centers' Junior Soccer League, which organizes games among Jewish

and Arab youth. The family included a request in Jesse's bar mitzvah

invitations asking guests to donate money to the Israeli association rather

than give him gifts.


*     A media watchdog group gave its first "Dishonest Reporting Canada"

award to a Canadian Broadcasting Company reporter. CBC reporter Neil

Macdonald, whose repeated negative references to Israel have triggered

on-air clarifications and an admission by a CBC ombudsman of a perception of

bias, took the "prize" sponsored by HonestReporting Canada. Sacha Trudeau,

son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, was a runner-up for "The

Fence," a nationally televised documentary about Israel's West Bank security

barrier that romanticized the leader of the Al Aksa Brigades in Jenin as a

"skinny renegade" on the run from Israeli ambushes.


*     "The Da Vinci Code" tops Israeli high-schoolers' lists of favorite

books. According to an Education Ministry study released this week, Dan

Brown's best-selling book, as well as Mark Haddon's "The Curious Incident of

the Dog in the Night-Time," are the books most read by Israeli 11th- and

12th-graders. In junior high schools, J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the

Prisoner of Azkaban" won out.


*     A French court opened a preliminary investigation into the

distribution of a free journal with anti-Semitic contents. "The Book of

Cultural Philosophy" has been distributed at the University of Lyon-III

since the end of 2004. The journals include passages that question "invading

foreigners of Semitic culture, with their behavior, customs and habits,

rites and cultures."


*     Argentine Jewish leader Leo Werthein died June 14 at age 69.

Werthein led the Tzedakah Jewish Foundation from 1995-2001. He also served

as president of the Argentine Rural Association.


*     Eating grapes can reduce the risk of heart disease, Israeli

researchers believe. According to a Rambam Hospital study published this

month in the U.S.-based Journal of Nutrition after two years of research,

grapes in powdered form, fed to mice who had been exposed to high levels of

cholesterol, reduced their risk of heart attack by 50 percent compared to a

control group. The grapes' salutary value was ascribed to anti-oxidants in

their skin.





For U.N.'s 60th birthday, Israel,

Jewish groups have a few wishes


By Rachel Pomerance


NEW YORK, June 20 (JTA) -- As the United Nations prepares to celebrate the

60th anniversary of its founding in San Francisco, the occasion is

bittersweet for Jewish observers.


It was the United Nations that sanctioned the State of Israel's birth in

1948, but it gave the Jewish state the status of an ugly stepchild --

constantly singling out Israel for condemnation and excluding Israel, alone

among U.N. member-states, from full membership in the regional groupings

that apportion key positions at the world body.


That said, Israel recently has made strides at the United Nations.


In the past year, the U.N. Department of Public Information convened a

daylong conference on anti-Semitism, devoting more time to the topic than

the United Nations ever before had.


In commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death

camps, the U.N. General Assembly held a special session and a Holocaust

exhibit in the lobby of U.N. headquarters was launched with the playing of

Israel's national anthem and the recitation of a Jewish mourning prayer.


U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also attended the opening of the new Yad

Vashem museum in Jerusalem, the first time a secretary-general had traveled

to Israel.


This month, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish

Organizations, an umbrella group of 52 Jewish organizations, reported a very

friendly meeting with Annan.


And last week, Israel's U.N. ambassador, Dan Gillerman, became one of 21

General Assembly vice presidents, the first time Israel has held the

position in more than half a century.


"All these things, beyond their symbolic importance, are also things that

herald a totally new treatment of Israel at the U.N. -- and for Israel, a

symbolism in this very difficult and hostile environment is also very

important," Gillerman told JTA.


The recent Jewish achievements and the 60th anniversary of the United

Nations -- founded on June 26, 1945 -- come as Annan strives to push through

a package of reforms for the world body.


Jewish officials praise Annan for backing some critical Jewish initiatives,

but say a test of the secretary-general's strength is the extent to which he

makes fair treatment of Israel a part of his reform plans.


Annan's reform package doesn't explicitly cite fairer treatment of Israel,

but Jewish officials believe that steps he is demanding to streamline the

organization bode well for Israel. For example, Annan's idea to make the

U.N. Commission on Human Rights into a smaller council -- not populated by

serial human-rights violators -- could change that body's agenda.


In addition, Annan plans to review any committee that has existed for more

than five years. That would include special committees devoted exclusively

to the plight of the Palestinians that Israel and Jewish officials view as

propaganda organs and are eager to close.


"The singling out of Israel is the elephant in the room of the whole U.N.

reform debate," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch in

Geneva. The anti-Israel agenda "is not a small issue. It's a material issue.

It dominates and monopolizes so many U.N. bodies."


As examples, Neuer cited the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which issues

more resolutions against Israel than against any other country, and the

World Health Organization, which last month held a special session on the

alleged damage Israel causes to Palestinians' health and condemned Israel in

a resolution opposed by only a handful of countries.


Furthermore, Annan's supportive statements, while positive, need to reach

beyond the Jewish community, Neuer said.


For example, in his Jerusalem speech, Annan pressed for Israel's full

participation in the Western European and Others Group. Israel has full

membership in the regional group at U.N. headquarters in New York, but not

at U.N. offices in Geneva, Nairobi, or Vienna.


But when he spoke in April to the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Annan

"didn't mention a word of it -- and that's where the change has to happen,"

Neuer said.


On the other hand, Felice Gaer, director of the American Jewish Committee's

Jacob Blaustein Institute for Human Rights, praised the fact that Annan told

the Human Rights Commission it was not credible and needed to be replaced.


"Kofi Annan has been courageous and has broken with past secretaries-general

in reflecting honestly on the U.N.'s failings when it has come to Israel and

anti-Semitism, but he still needs to do more," she said, pointing to

entrenched bias at the institution.


"We're finally beginning to get these issues out from the shadows. We

finally have the straight talk about anti-Semitism from the front office.

What we don't have is it coming from the political bodies," she said. "I

would like to see the secretary-general's leadership mirrored by others who

serve as top officials of the U.N."


Amy Goldstein, director of U.N. affairs for B'nai B'rith International, had

sharper words.


Ever since the United Nations fulfilled the Jewish right to

self-determination by granting Israel statehood, it has tried to erode those

rights, she said.


"After 60 years, we need to reform the United Nations to return it to the

original ideas of the framers and to make it a place where all peoples,

including the Jewish people, are treated equally," Goldstein said.


Others feel more optimistic.


Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference, said

the recent meeting with Annan was a success.


The meeting addressed many issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian peace

process, anti-Semitism, Iran's nuclear program, the ongoing killings in

Darfur and Israel's full membership in its regional grouping.


"He was actually pretty responsive to everything," Hoenlein said of Annan.


Hoenlein noted that Annan "indicated support for the idea of pursuing the

'road map' " -- an internationally backed peace plan -- and not backing the

Palestinian demand to jump immediately to final-status negotiations before

the two sides have met their commitments in intermediate stages.


For his part, Gillerman views the recent advancements as irreversible.


A new world view is taking shape among member states after Sept. 11,

Gillerman said, pointing to shifting politics in the Middle East, from

Israel's Gaza withdrawal plan to the potential reignition of the

Israeli-Palestinian peace process to Syria's withdrawal of troops from



Israel lobbied diplomats for six months to attain a vice presidency of the

General Assembly, where Gillerman said he will try to steer the agenda away

from the usual slew of anti-Israel resolutions.


Israel now is working for a coveted seat on the 15-member Security Council,

the only U.N. body with binding authority.


"Nothing is impossible for Israel anymore, and whatever position is

available, we will fight for," Gillerman said. "The sky's the limit."


Back to top | E-mail this article | Print this article





History of a lie: Museum traces

the story of infamous 'Protocols'


By Avi Mayer


WASHINGTON, June 20 (JTA) -- Arthur Berger remembers hosting a group of

foreign clerics in New York in the mid-1990s when his then employer, the

American Jewish Committee, had been asked by the State Department to help

convey to the guests the American ethos of tolerance and mutual



So it was a bit of a shock when one of the visitors, a Muslim cleric from

the Middle East, mentioned over lunch that he had picked up an "incredible

book about the Jews" at the Cairo Book Fair: "The Protocols of the Elders of



Berger now is director of communications at the United States Holocaust

Memorial Museum, which is currently hosting "Anti-Semitism: Protocols of the

Elders of Zion," an exhibition on one of the most notorious forgeries in



The modest exhibit includes copies of the book that Hitler looked to for

inspiration and Henry Ford disseminated for general consumption.


Berger said that the book seems to have "a new life."


"It confounds people," he said. "I can't explain it."


The Protocols outline a plan for world domination supposedly compiled by a

gathering of Jewish leaders held during the First Zionist Conference in

1897. In the account, the characters lay out a step-by-step strategy to fool

gentiles -- referred to as "goyim" -- into doing their bidding.


Plans range from the replacement of the pope to the establishment of a

global Jewish government and the appointment of a "king of the Jews."


The exhibit includes copies of the Protocols from Finland (1924), India

(1974) and Japan (2004). The 20 covers are adorned by classic anti-Semitic

images, including representations of globes trapped in the clutches of

massive "Jewish" snakes, arachnids, tentacled, squid-like creatures and

conniving, hook-nosed faces.


A German-language copy from 1920 Berlin looks remarkably like a Jewish

prayer book or an early Zionist manual, complete with a blue-and-white Star

of David flag and golden type reading, "All Israel are responsible for one

another" in Hebrew.


The language that appears most prominently among the artifacts is Arabic,

with numerous issues from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.


Last year, Wal-Mart was found to be selling an English-language edition of

the Protocols on its Web site. The company made a "business decision" to

remove the book from the site after widespread criticism.


According to Kenneth Jacobson, associate national director of the

Anti-Defamation League, the persistence of the phenomenon is simple: The

Protocols satisfy virtually every manifestation of contemporary



From Holocaust denial to conspiracy theories surrounding Sept. 11 and the

Iraq war, the themes present in the Protocols permeate modern Jew hatred.


"The Protocols are representative of the pernicious and insidious nature of

anti-Semitism," he said. "They portray the Jews as secretive,

conspiratorial, alien, all-powerful."


Of particular note is the resurgence of those themes in bookstores and

television screens around the Islamic world, Jacobson said.


"The Protocols never died," Jacobson said. "They've never gone away. They're

at the core of historic anti-Semitism."


Though the origins of the Protocols remain uncertain, scholars believe much

of the work was plagiarized from an 1864 pamphlet written by French satirist

Maurice Joly lampooning Napoleon III's political ambitions, and had nothing

to do with the Jews.


Hermann Goedsche, a German spy, swiped Joly's pamphlet and excerpts from a

novel by Alexandre Dumas in his book "Biarritz," written under a pseudonym.


In a chapter entitled "The Jewish Cemetery in Prague and the Council of

Representatives of the Twelve Tribes of Israel," Goedsche depicted a secret

rabbinical council which met in the cemetery at midnight every 100 years to

plan the agenda for the Jewish conspiracy.


The book was translated into Russian in 1872. In 1891, the Czarist secret

police were using it to incite popular ire against Russia's Jewish

population and divert public attention from the country's political woes.


The work appeared in its final form and under the title "The Protocols of

the Learned Elders of Zion" in 1897, apparently compiled by Mathieu

Golovinski, an associate of Czar Nicholas II.


The Protocols first reached American shores in 1917 when Russian emigre

Boris Brazil translated them into English.


In 1920, industrialist Henry Ford sponsored the printing of 500,000 copies

of the work and included excerpts of the Protocols in his weekly Dearborn

Independent through 1927. The Holocaust Museum exhibit includes a copy of

Ford's own diatribe, "The International Jew."


British diplomat Lucien Wolf -- who in 1917 had strongly supported the

issuance of the Balfour Declaration, the document pledging British support

for a Jewish homeland in the land of Israel -- traced the Protocols back to

Goedsche's writings, and published his findings in London in 1921.


Later that year, The Times of London ran a series of articles proving that

the work was a forgery, and American Herman Bernstein authored a book

documenting its history.


By 1924, however, the Protocols had been translated into German and found

their way to Hitler's prison cell. Taken by the book, Hitler referred to it

in "Mein Kampf."


"To what an extent the whole existence of this people is based on a

continuous lie is shown incomparably by the 'Protocols of the Elders of

Zion,' so infinitely hated by the Jews," he wrote. "Once this book has

become the common property of a people the Jewish menace may be considered

as broken."


The Holocaust Museum collection contains a copy of the first edition of the

Protocols published in Nazi Germany in 1933.


The collection is on display through the end of the year.


Back to top | E-mail this article | Print this article




German's 'art' has political motive:

stopping honor for Waffen SS dead


By Toby Axelrod


BERLIN, June 20 (JTA) -- For years, German artist and activist Wolfram

Kastner has been destroying private property. Someone has to do it, he says.



It's not just any property Kastner is after. Virtually every Nov. 1 since

1993, he has gone to a cemetery in Salzburg, Austria, and snipped ribbons

from wreaths laid at the graves of veterans of the Waffen SS, a military

division that took part in war crimes.


The Munich native has been fined several times in Austria for damaging

public property. Because Kastner declined to answer the last summons from

Austria, his case now is being heard in a Munich district court, on the

request of Austrian courts.


The state prosecutor in charge, Martin Hofmann, said patience with Kastner

is running out.


"I could discontinue the case because of the low level of guilt," he told

JTA in a telephone interview. "But Mr. Kastner does it again every year. He

knows he does something illegal but does it again and again, out of his

political convictions," as well as a desire for publicity.


Still, Hofmann said he's unlikely to request a heavy sentence: Kastner could

get up to 2 years on probation or an unspecified fine if convicted.


Juergen Arnold, Kastner's attorney, called state prosecutors "dumb."


"The court sees simply 'damage to property,' but they don't care that it is

damage to the property of a criminal association," he said.


"It's typical German authoritarian thinking, not to the left or right but

straight ahead, as in 'We have our laws and have to apply them,' " Arnold

said. "This is how they thought 60 years ago, and this is how they will

think in 100 years."


For years, Kastner, who is married to a psychologist, has been calling

attention to aspects of the Nazi past that some would rather forget. In

German, his work is called "Aktionskunst," or art as a means of political



"Art cannot be punished in Germany," Arnold said.


Kastner received official permission last fall to place a temporary

installation of 17 suitcases outside a building in Munich from which Jews

had been deported. The names of the deportees are written on the suitcases,

which are painted white.


Kastner says he won't remove the installation until the building, which is

used as a library, places a plaque in remembrance of the Jews who lived



In January 2005, Kastner was one of five Germans to receive the annual

Obermayer German Jewish History Award for his dedication to remembering the



He began his annual Austrian protest action in 1993, snipping the ribbons

from wreaths that comrades and relatives of Waffen SS left at Salzburg's

cemetery on Nov. 1, a general holiday for remembrance of the dead.


Some of the comrades have been forced in the past to remove badges and

medals bearing swastika symbols, but the wreaths dedicated to the Waffen SS

are perfectly legal.


But "I can't ignore it," said Kastner, who placed the cut ribbons in a

Salzburg gallery for all to see.


Kastner has urged others to join him, and the actions are reported regularly

in the Austrian press. One article reported that the SS wreaths had been

"beschnitten," which means both "cut" and "circumcised."


"The Nazis were especially upset about that headline," Kastner said.


Kastner seems to enjoy rattling the wreath layers. In 2001, he succeeded in

getting permission for a klezmer group to play a song in the cemetery at the

same time as those honoring the Waffen SS members were accompanied by a

marching band.


"I would really like to stop my actions," Kastner told JTA. "But I have to

go on as long as it is necessary, and as long as I can."


Back to top | E-mail this article | Print this article





Czech town explores history as

first bat mitzvah held since 1938


By Dinah A. Spritzer


PRAGUE, June 20 (JTA) -- A young girl on the verge of womanhood reads the

names of Shoah victims to an international audience and television crews, in

a country that's not her own.


It's safe to say that Hana Pike's bat mitzvah wasn't your typical passage

into adulthood.


Hana recited the names of the departed in Austerlitz, now called Slavkov, a

Czech town long known as the site of Napoleon's greatest military victory

over Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.


But Slavkov and its 6,000 or so residents now have a modern claim to fame:

On June 4 the town hosted its first bat mitzvah since 1938.


There were a few twists, which one has to expect in a country where most of

the Jewish population was wiped out by the Holocaust. For one, Hana is



Second, the Slavkov synagogue that Hana's Nottingham congregation helped

restore has no regular religious services, since there's only one Jew in



The bat mitzvah was not so much a sign of things to come but a remembrance

of the town's Jewish past.


"I especially think of the former Jewish children of this town who, like me,

celebrated good times and worshipped with their parents in their synagogue

-- but who, unlike me, were deprived of celebrating their bar or bat

mitzvah," Hana said at the start of the service.


It was a Torah from Slavkov, held by the Nottingham congregation, that first

brought the two towns together.


"To come here for my daughter's bat mitzvah was extremely special," said

Hana's father, Neil Pike. "Not just a historic occasion in her life, but in

the context of the town.


"To see 90-year old Erik Stracht," a Czech native now living in England,

"after the service embrace Hana, who was named after his 6-year-old niece

who died in Auschwitz, tells the story better than any words can," he



The 24 members of the Nottingham Progressive Jewish Congregation who came to

wish Hana the best were not strangers to Slavkov.


In fact, they've been bombarded with information about the town since 1990,

when Neil Pike discovered that the congregation's Torah scroll originated in

Austerlitz. Pike felt it was his duty to find out more about the town.


Like more than 1,000 other congregations around the world, Nottingham

received a Torah on permanent loan from the Memorial Scrolls Trust in

Westminster, England. The trust purchased, preserved and then loaned out

1,500 Czech scrolls that were discovered in the basement of a Prague

synagogue in the early 1960s.


Unable to speak Czech, Pike felt stymied in his search -- until an article

in the magazine of another British congregation piqued his interest.


It turned out that author Erik Stracht, whose mother and many relatives had

come from Slavkov, was the only member of his family to make it alive out of

Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia.


In 1990 Stracht went back to the area for the first time since before World

War II. He discovered Slavkov's only remaining Jew, Ruth Matiovska, 74, and

Ruth's former schoolteacher, a non-Jew dedicated to chronicling the town's

history, including that of the 90 Jews who lived there before the war.


Through extensive research and letter writing, Pike, Stracht, Matiovska and

the former schoolteacher discovered the fate of the Austerlitz Jews, which

camps they died in or where they might have fled to.


They also gained the interest of those related in some way to the town's

previous Jewish residents, re-establishing links that had been cut by Nazism

and communism.


The fruit of their efforts is "The Jews of Austerlitz," a book in English

and Czech.


But that wasn't enough for Pike. After his first visit to the town in 1994,

he raised funds for the placement of a memorial stone outside Slavkov's

Jewish cemetery.


"At first the town council was not interested in bringing up matters from

the past, but when they saw that perhaps remembering Slavkov's Jewish

heritage might attract more visitors, they began to change," he said.


Change was much needed, according to Stracht, who describes what he found in



"To my surprise the old synagogue was in a neglected state and was used as a

furniture store. There was not a single sign in the town that referred to

its Jewish citizens who had perished in the Holocaust, including my

grandmother and two cousins."


After the initial push from Pike and Stracht, the town awakened to its

Jewish history.


Children who didn't even know what the Holocaust was suddenly were given

first-hand accounts in the classroom by Matiovska, Holocaust studies were

introduced in high school, along with general lessons on tolerance and the

perils of racism.


The Nottingham congregation created a Jewish-themed essay contest for

students at the Slavkov high school; each year, the winner receives a



Back in England, Pike established an Austerlitz Shabbat, during which young

members of the congregation read aloud the names of the 10 Austerlitz

children who died in the Holocaust.


"This helps these kids realize what the 6 million means much more than any

book or lecture," Pike said.


Pike also commissioned a play about Austerlitz with congregation members as

actors under the eye of a professional director.


The play, the "Austerlitz Scroll," which focuses on the town's Jewish

citizens and particularly Matiovska, was translated into Czech and performed

by high school students on the day of Hana's bat mitzvah.


Still, Pike wasn't satisfied: Here was this empty synagogue, dating to 1867,

that needed restoration. The town needed little convincing and came up with

its own plan to renovate the synagogue, with the support of the district



Another historic site, the town's Jewish school, was reopened on the day of

Hana's bat mitzvah as a center or exhibitions on Jewish life.


Following Slavkov's projects with the Nottingham congregation, local

interest in Jewish subjects has become "enormous," town administrator Pavel

Dvorak said. He said he has been flooded with calls from people wanting to

visit the Jewish school.


He noted that 60 people from the area were invited to Hana's bat mitzvah,

but more than 120 showed up. The bat mitzvah attracted Jews from Israel,

Germany, France and Canada whose families came from Austerlitz.


Two U.S. congregations with Austerlitz scrolls also were represented, and

the BBC and Czech Television covered the celebration.


Meanwhile, the celebration also marked a turning point for Matiovska, now a

member of the Nottingham congregation.


"It's important for people today to know what happened in the past, about

the Holocaust," Matiovska said, "but also about Jewish culture -- and that

is why having a bat mitzvah in this town means so much."


Back to top | E-mail this article | Print this article





Exhibit on Polish city's Jewish past

reverberates beyond museum walls


By Carolyn Slutsky


WARSAW, June 20 (JTA) -- An exhibit on pre-war Jewish life in the Polish

city of Czestochowa, a Catholic pilgrimage site with a tiny Jewish

population, is taking on a life of its own.


"Coexistence, Holocaust, Memory" opened last spring displaying photographs

and stories depicting pre-war Jewish life in Czestochowa, which on the eve

of World War II was home to 30,000 Jews, or about a third of the city's



Just 37 Jews live in Czestochowa today.


After a successful run in Czestochowa, during which more than 11,000 people

viewed the exhibit, it moved to Warsaw, where it reopened at the Jewish

Historical Institute last fall.


But the effect of the photographs and the stories they told did not stop at

the museum doors.


Anna Maciejowska, principal of Czestochowa's Malczewski High School of Fine

Arts, saw the original exhibit and wanted to find a way to incorporate its

lessons into students' art projects.


Maciejowska decided to involve her students in their own multidisciplinary

exhibit, called "From the Inspiration of Jewish Culture." The show opened

this month at the National Library in Warsaw.


Approximately 250 students from the school viewed the Czestochowa exhibit

and studied artists such as Chagall and Bruno Schulz, producing artworks

ranging from paintings and photographs to collages, sculptures, linoleum

prints, jewelry and metal bas relief carvings.


Students also studied the work of famous Polish Jewish and Israeli writers

such as Julian Tuwim, Henryk Grynberg and Amos Oz, and created small books

illustrated with the writers' words in Polish, Hebrew and Yiddish.


Szymon Szurmiej, longtime director of the Yiddish Theater in Warsaw, came to

Czestochowa to direct students in an adaptation of Isaac Bashevis Singer's

"The Dreadful Inn."


Many of the students were reluctant to speak about their projects,

preferring to let their work speak for itself.


Katarzyna Polus, who made a painting based on a photograph she found of an

old Jewish building, said she read Singer stories, histories and other texts

to prepare for the project.


"I know more than I knew, and I know I'll try to have more contact with

Jewish things in the future," she said.


Justyna Rumik, who designed and crafted a pair of earrings subtly shaped

like a Jewish star, said she was "fascinated with the delicacy of Jewish

ornaments" and had read and heard lectures about Jewish history.


A friend of Rumik's said the project had helped him discover his Jewish



His great-grandfather died in Treblinka and his grandparents had taught him

bit by bit about what it means to be Jewish, said the student, who declined

to give his name.


Maciejowska's daughter, Julia, said she always remembered her mother being

interested in Judaism. During the course of the project, Maciejowska

realized she was interested in Jewish history not only as an observer, but

that she also was on a quest for her roots.


She now is proud to say that she is one-eighth Jewish, a fact she sensed but

never confirmed until the exhibit shed light on the Jewish background of her

city and -- as she began to do research -- on her own Jewish heritage.


In November, "Coexistence, Holocaust, Memory" will come to America,

including the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass., and the Museum

of Jewish Heritage in New York City.


It also will make stops at Seton Hall University in New Jersey and the

Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio, which is near the city of Panna

Maria, home to the oldest Polish community in America.


Interest in things Jewish among Poles has grown in recent years. In fact,

for many Poles, Jewish history and culture are a fascinating part of the

country's past that they have had the chance to explore freely only in the

past 15 years.


Until World War II, Czestochowa was home to a flourishing community that

consisted of all kinds of Jews from Orthodox to secular, a well-respected

Jewish high school, Jewish artists and workers.


The Nazis invaded in September 1939 and built the Hasag concentration camp.

Most of the town's Jews perished there or were sent from there to Treblinka.



Sigmund Rolat, a Czestochowa native whose parents and brother were killed in

the Holocaust, was a co-creator and sponsor of the exhibition, along with

his cousin, Alan Silberstein, who was born in a Displaced Persons camp in

Europe but raised in the United States, and whose parents took in Rolat

after the war.


Rolat had returned to Czestochowa over the years on infrequent visits.

Recently, after scaling back his business, he found himself with more time

and wanted to reconnect with his hometown, he told JTA.


Since the exhibit opened last year, he said, "I now spend 95 percent of my

time on these projects."


Piotr Stasiak, a longtime friend of Rolat's from Czestochowa, said many

people in Poland who get involved in Jewish things begin out of curiosity,

which later leads to commitment.


"They do this not because of their roots but because of their hearts," he



Back to top | E-mail this article | Print this article