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Targum Shlishi Supports Holocaust Awareness, Education, Scholarship, and More: For International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a Round-Up of Current Projects

(Miami, January 26, 2015) - International Holocaust Remembrance Day is on January 27. While the Jewish community both in Israel and the United States is more attuned to Yom HaShoah, which this year falls on April 16, in light of the recent anti-Semitic terrorist incidents in France and elsewhere, Targum Shlishi believes that both dates should be on everyone’s radar as a time to do much more than simply remember the Holocaust.

One of Targum Shlishi’s core areas of giving is for initiatives related to the Holocaust, chiefly in terms of awareness and education. This focus is an evolution from the foundation’s earlier concentration on justice for Nazi war crimes.

“Something is awry in the world when sixty-two percent of today’s German population has a negative opinion of the Israeli government and thirty-five percent of Germans equate Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians with Nazi policies,” says Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “Furthermore, fifty-eight percent of Germans want to consign the Holocaust to history. Given these statistics, one can only imagine the views of the other of European countries that collaborated with Hitler, and where, as in Germany, anti-Semitism is again on the rise. With that in mind, I am proud to be affiliated with the continued sponsorship of several Holocaust-related initiatives and educational programs in an effort to stop the madness of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism.”

The following is a selected list of current Holocaust-related initiatives supported by the foundation.

L’Chaim! Documentary Film by Elkan Spiller
For the past few years, Targum Shlishi has been following the working progress and modestly helping to support a compelling documentary film that was recently released and has been shown at selected film festivals in Europe, to rave reviews and several awards.
L’Chaim provides viewers with a glimpse into the unusual life of Chaim Lubelski. Chaim is an eccentric former jet-setter and businessman who, in middle age, devotes himself to caring for his aging parents. After his father’s death, Chaim, at the age of 63, moves in with his mother, who lives in an elderly home in Antwerp. His unique brand of caretaking involves plenty of humor, laughing, and singing to distract his mother from memories of World War II. Although he is also affected by the legacy of war, Chaim rejects the role of victim. The film is both a particular story about altruistic love and deep humanity and a larger commentary on ways in which the trauma of the Holocaust affects the next generation, the children of survivors.

Elkan Spiller spent years shooting the footage for the documentary, much at his own expense. While the film is complete, getting it out into the world is challenging—Spiller is currently applying to film festivals in the U.S., seeking distribution, and hoping to organize screenings at museums, universities, schools, JCCs, and elsewhere. Awards received to date for L’Chaim! include: Audience Award for Best Documentary from FILMZ, a film festival in Mainz, Germany; and two prestigious awards from the German Film Board, its Seal of Approval as a highly recommended film and Documentary of the Month, awarded in January 2015. An earlier short film drawn from this material, Mama L’Chaim, won several awards internationally, including first prize from the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust’s short film festival. To learn more, visit the film’s Facebook page.

Defending History, Website and Organization Headed by Dovid Katz
Defending History is a robust website that publishes in-depth articles, opinion pieces, resources, booklets, maps, and more dedicated to defending the history of the Holocaust from deniers and those who attempt to distort it. Based in Vilnius, Lithuania, the English-language website is edited by Dovid Katz, with articles by many contributing authors.

The articles, and the website as a whole, seek to oppose the European campaign of Holocaust revisionism; defend the integrity of victims; support Holocaust survivors and their families; advocate for the freedom to oppose governmental and other groups that want to rewrite history; defend human rights and equality; support the remaining Eastern European Jewish communities and Yiddish and Litvak culture; and defend historic Jewish cemeteries. Targum Shlishi is helping support Defending History’s efforts to monitor, document, and report on events that deal with the Holocaust, genocide, and commemoration of totalitarian regimes. Targum Shlishi is also supporting Defending History’s work monitoring international media on matters relevant to Holocaust revisionism. For more information, visit the website.

Who Will Write Our History? Documentary Film by Roberta Grossman, Based on a Book by Samuel Kassow
A week after the sealing of the Warsaw Ghetto, a Polish historian named Emanuel Ringelblum organized a secret group of more than sixty members. The group’s mission was to document life in the ghetto and tell the story of Polish Jewry. Comprising writers, poets, rabbis, activists, sociologists, economists, and others, the group met every Saturday for three years and called their collective the Oyneg Shabes. They collected and wrote material about their lives—testimonies, essays, poems, photographs, diaries, paintings, underground newspapers, and more. These materials were buried on the eve of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto in metal boxes and milk cans.

Two of three caches of this archive were discovered after the war, in 1946 and 1950, with more than thirty thousand pages of material, but the archive remained relatively unknown for decades. It was housed in poor conditions in the Jewish Historical Institute of Warsaw, with thousands of documents that were not translated.
In fall 2014, award-winning producer/director Roberta Grossman began filming a documentary about the Oyneg Shabes Archive, Who Will Write Our History? The film is based on a 2007 book of the same title by Samuel Kassow. The executive producer for the film is Nancy Spielberg.

In the words of Yehuda Bauer of Yad Vashem: “There are two forms of resistance: armed resistance and unarmed resistance. Historian Emanuel Ringelblum led a group of intellectuals who risked their lives in a resistance mission to preserve Jewish memory in the face of total annihilation. Ringelblum may or may not have not believed in God, but he believed deeply in the Jewish people and in the importance of Jewish history.” Learn more here.

Holocaust Icons: Symbolizing the Shoah in History and Memory, Book by Oren Baruch Stier
Targum Shlishi helped support image research and acquisition for Holocaust Icons: Symbolizing the Shoah in History and Memory by Oren Baruch Stier, a professor of religious studies at Florida International University. In this compelling study, forthcoming from Rutgers University Press, Stier traces the history and memory of four key symbolic remnants left in the Holocaust’s wake—what he calls Holocaust icons: World War II-era railway boxcars, the “Arbeit macht frei” slogan and gateway, the persona of Anne Frank, and the number “six million.”

Like religious icons, these relics embody the past in the present and provide points of access to the horrifying realities to which they refer.  Stier shows how and why these icons—an object, a phrase, a person, and a number—have come to stand in for the Holocaust. He discusses where they came from and how they have been used and reproduced; how they are presently at risk from the threats of relativization, commodification, and universalization; and what the future holds for the memory of the Shoah. Stier’s previous books include Committed to Memory: Cultural Mediations of the Holocaust (University of Massachusetts Press, 2003). 

Educating German Students about Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israel Propaganda, Curriculum Developed by Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin (MFFB)
Targum Shlishi is supporting the development of a multi-day educational seminar in Germany whose objective is to teach students about democratic values and raise their awareness of misinformation and the prevalence of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel propaganda to which they are exposed. “In German media and especially in German school textbooks there is an astounding misrepresentation of the State of Israel,” explains Michael Spaney, executive director of MFFB.

The MFFB is a German political consulting organization that, among other things, seeks to combat anti-Semitism, hostility toward Israel, and right-wing extremism in Germany and elsewhere. The curriculum that MFFB is developing will counter these biases not only for students but also for teachers. “We are taking into account the fact that most teachers have prejudices towards Israel—our goal is to educate teachers as well as students,” says Spaney. In the past, MFFB organized the Stop the Bomb campaign in Germany, focused on preventing a nuclear armed Iran. For more information, see the website.  

Video Documentation of Testimonies by the Families of Holocaust Survivors, Rhodes, Greece by University of Hartford’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies
Targum Shlishi helped support the video documentation of interviews with the children of Holocaust survivors in Rhodes, Greece. The initiative was organized by the University of Hartford’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies and took place during July, 2014 on the occasion of a conference held in conjunction with the seventieth anniversary of the round-up of the Jews of Rhodes. Most of the individuals interviewed were descendants of the approximately fifty Jews on Rhodes who were Turkish or had Turkish connections and were saved from deportation in 1944 by the Turkish consul-general in Rhodes, Selahattin Ulkumen, who was later honored as a Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. The interviews were connected with an archaeological research project on the three synagogues in Rhodes.

This video documentation work is part of a larger project called In Our Words, an initiative to interview and archive testimonies of second- and third-generation descendants of survivors by the University of Hartford’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies in order to document and research the lasting effects of the Holocaust in twenty-first century Jewish society. For more information on In Our Words, go to its webpage. To view some of the interviews, visit the Greenberg Center’s YouTube channel.

Holocaust Studies Initiative, Academic Program at Florida International University (FIU)
The newly formed FIU Holocaust Studies Initiative is university-community partnership dedicated to expanding FIU’s educational offerings related to the study of the Shoah in order to benefit not only FIU students but also the broader community. Targum Shlishi’s grant is helping to support the Initiative as a whole. In addition to courses, the Initiative organizes a host of related educational programs, such as lectures, museum exhibitions, films, continuing education opportunities, scholars-in-residence, and more. Upcoming programs include a screening of Claude Lanzmann’s epic, 9 ½-hour film Shoah on March 1 and March 8. The Holocaust Studies Initiative is one of several Jewish Studies Initiatives offered at FIU. For more information, go to its webpage.

Greenhorn, Film Based on a Book by Anna Olswanger
Anna Olswanger’s children’s novel Greenhorn, based on the true story of an eleven-year-old Holocaust survivor in a Brooklyn yeshiva in 1946, was adapted into a short film; Targum Shlishi helped support the filmmaking process. Olswanger, who co-produced the film with Tom Whitus, notes that soon even the youngest survivors of the Holocaust will be gone, and children will not have a direct connection to the Holocaust: “Greenhorn, along with other Holocaust films and books, could be their only connection. We intend Greenhorn to be a film for the next generation.” The film was primarily shot at The Actors’ Temple in Manhattan. It was completed in fall 2014 and premiere screenings took place at the Landmark NuArt Theatre in Los Angeles and The Museum of Tolerance in New York. For more information about Greenhorn, visit its webpage.

About Targum Shlishi Targum Shlishi, a Raquel and Aryeh Rubin Foundation, is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website at www.targumshlishi.org.

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