(Miami, May 3, 2016) —Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, is May 4–5. Targum Shlishi’s support of projects related to Holocaust awareness and education is one of its core areas of giving. For many years, this category was primarily focused on pursuing justice for Nazi war crimes—Targum Shlishi worked with Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, on many initiatives, including partnering on Operation Last Chance. As time has passed, the focus has shifted to the critical importance of issues around awareness, education, and combatting denial.
“The Jewish Disease is not that in every generation there arises an enemy that seeks to destroy us, as we read just two weeks ago in the Passover Haggadah; that has been our destiny. Instead, the Jewish Disease is that in every generation, Jews, wherever their locale, believe that this time is different,” says Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “Whether it is thirteenth-century England; fifteenth-century Spain; nineteenth-century Ukraine; twentieth-century Germany; or twenty-first century France, England, or elsewhere, anywhere that Jews have achieved an exalted status in society, a confidence sets in that blocks their sense of historical reality. The details vary—perhaps there are Jews who are advisors to their country’s rulers, or on the highest corporate levels of large multinational companies, or one serves as the finance minister in a democratic state—regardless of circumstance, the refrain is always the same. Over and over, the Jews have stated: ‘It can’t happen here.’ Holocaust Remembrance Day serves to remind us that anti-Semitism has a long history and that it can happen anywhere. And this extreme anti-Semitism of yesterday extends to Israel today.”
Expanding on this, Rubin continues: “Israel is increasingly pilloried in ways that are the current face of anti-Semitism. It is critical that on Holocaust Remembrance Day we do much more than see the Holocaust as an historic event. The terrible truth is that we are in no position to call the Holocaust history. With anti-Semitism steadily rising throughout Europe, we are all obligated to do our job in increasing awareness and knowledge of the Holocaust as well as disseminating truth and countering lies about Israel and the Jewish people. Every year we help support a series of initiatives that are dedicated to expanding awareness of the Holocaust. We are very proud of the important work being accomplished by these programs.”
The following is a selected list of current Holocaust-related initiatives supported by the foundation.
A Journey Into the Holocaust, Documentary Film by Paul Bachow
The filmmaker describes himself as “plagued with the inability to understand why a nation was so fixated on exterminating Jews and other minorities.” His work on this film represents his effort to understand the whys behind the Holocaust and other genocides. As such, the film is a unique contribution, as it focuses not so much on the historical events of the Holocaust but on providing a lens into understanding genocide. The film traces the history of anti-Semitism and its roots in Europe. Interviews with survivors of the Holocaust and pograms, along with extensive archival materials, help viewers understand what life was like for European Jews before, during, and after the Second World War. The filmmaker’s hope is that the more people understand genocide and recognize the warning signs, the more likely we are to prevent such events or intervene in earlier stages in the future. Targum Shlishi’s funding helped to support the production of subtitles for the film in multiple languages, including Farsi (for the Iranian people), Spanish, German, and French. To learn more about the film, go to its website.
L’Chaim! Documentary Film by Elkan Spiller
L’Chaim is a documentary film about the legacy of the Holocaust for the children of survivors. Targum Shlishi has helped support L’Chaim with modest grants for multiple years. Initially, Targum Shlishi took a chance on supporting the project early on, based on the vision and commitment of filmmaker Elkan Spiller, although there was no guarantee that the film would be completed or distributed. Spiller views the film as his life’s work, and spent years shooting footage, largely at his own expense. The film was released recently and while work is ongoing to have it screened at film festivals, schools, and universities around the world, the response has been extremely strong. The film has won five awards, has shown at multiple film festivals, has been screened in fifty-five cinemas in Germany and twenty-two in Holland, and is scheduled to be broadcast on August 1 on Dutch television. A DVD (in five languages) is coming out in May and will be for sale; negotiations are ongoing to screen the film on German television. At the same time, the filmmaker has created curricular materials and has been presenting the film at schools in Europe. He is seeking distribution and screenings at film festivals, universities, and other venues, especially in the U.S., France, and Israel. The film is both a particular story about altruistic love that the child of survivors has for his parents and a larger commentary on ways in which the trauma of the Holocaust affects the next generation. To learn more, visit the film’s Facebook page.
A Geophysical Survey of the Ponary Burial Pits in Lithuania, the University of Hartford’s Vilna Project
A team from the University of Hartford has been invited by the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum to partner with geoscientists and archaeologists from the U.S., Canada, Israel, and Lithuania in an effort to investigate the Ponary massacres. During 1941–44, Nazis and collaborators massacred approximately 100,000 people, including 70,000 Jews, in the forests outside Vilna. The burial sites have not been fully identified. The team is going to use non-invasive technologies to map the burial pits, which in part will ensure that no development takes place at these sites. In addition to finding the burial pits, the team will also work to rediscover the location and contents of an escape tunnel built by the seventy Jews and ten Russians who attempted to escape Ponary on April 15, 1944. Previously, Targum Shlishi helped support the Center’s video documentation of interviews with children of Holocaust survivors in Rhodes, Greece as part of its In Our Words project. For more information on In Our Words, go to its webpage. To view some of the interviews, visit the Greenberg Center’s YouTube channel. For more information on the center, visit its website.
Names, Not Numbers, Holocaust Oral History Student Documentary Project
This innovative Holocaust education project has been in existence for several years, but this year for the first time it brought together eighth-grade students from a Jewish day school and a public school in New York. The students learned about the Holocaust in an immersive experience that culminated in the creation of their own documentary film projects. Experts such as author and Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum taught students about the history of the Holocaust. Students also heard first-hand accounts from survivors and liberators, and they learned interviewing and documentary film skills from media personalities and videographers. They then created their own documentaries by working collaboratively to interview the survivors and liberators. As one student noted of the project, “I feel it is now my responsibility to make sure that my survivor’s story is never forgotten.” To learn more about Names Not Numbers, visit its website.
Holocaust Testimonies Research by Oren Baruch Stier
Targum Shlishi is supporting research into the nature and shaping of Holocaust video testimonies being conducted by Oren Baruch Stier, a professor of religious studies at Florida International University. This research builds on his recently published book, Holocaust Icons: Symbolizing the Shoah in History and Memory (Rutgers University Press, 2015). In this compelling study, 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.” Stier’s previous books include Committed to Memory: Cultural Mediations of the Holocaust (University of Massachusetts Press, 2003). For more information on the book Holocaust Icons, go here.
Defending History, Website and Organization Headed by Dovid Katz
For the second year, Targum Shlishi is helping support the website Defending History, organized and edited by Dovid Katz and based in Vilnius, Lithuania. This content-rich, English-language website is dedicated to defending the history of the Holocaust from deniers and those who attempt to distort it. The website features investigative articles, opinion pieces, resources, booklets, maps, and more, by multiple contributors. Targum Shlishi is helping support Defending History’s efforts to monitor anti-Semitism and Holocaust revisionism in Lithuania, the other Baltic states, and Ukraine. For more information, visit the website.
Holocaust Teacher Institute, University of Miami and Miami-Dade County Public Schools
This week-long summer program has for fifteen years educated teachers from Miami-Dade County Public Schools (teachers from elsewhere can also attend). The Institute’s goal is to provide knowledge and a framework for teachers from a variety of disciplines to teach the lessons of the Holocaust using literature, history, and primary documents effectively throughout the curriculum. In addition to educating students about the Holocaust, the hope is that these lessons with also encourage students to learn, think, feel, and reflect and to develop character, compassion, and civility in their daily lives. The next Institute session, to be held in June 2016, will feature several renowned Holocaust scholars and educators, including Michael Berenbaum, author, filmmaker, and founding director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; William Meinecke, a historian and senior educator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Mary Johnson, a historian affiliated with Facing History and Ourselves; Kory Street, the education director from the Spielberg Shoah Foundation; and Miriam Klein Kassenoff, director of the Institute, author, holocaust educator, and a child survivor. To learn more about the Institute, visit its website.
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi 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. Follow Aryeh Rubin, Targum Shlishi’s director, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Aryeh5.