Photo Friday: Standing in Silence

(Photo: Flash90)

(Photo: Flash90)

At 10:00 a.m. on Yom HaShoah – Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day – an air-raid siren sounds and the entire nation stops what they’re doing for a moment of silence in honor of those who died during the Holocaust, as well as those who survived.

Here, Israelis pause on a Jerusalem street. Shabbat shalom.

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Friday, April 17th, 2015 at 12:31 PM  | Stand for Israel

France Launches Plan to Combat Anti-Semitism

(Photo: wikicommons/Jackolan1)

(Photo: wikicommons/Jackolan1)

The terrorist attacks earlier this year against a Kosher market in Paris highlighted the growing anti-Semitism facing French – and European – Jews. The Times of Israel reports that France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls has launched a plan to combat the anti-Semitism and racism causing violence in his country:

France’s prime minister announced Friday the government would pour 100 million euros into a major anti-racism and anti-Semitism action plan devised in the aftermath of the deadly Paris jihadist attacks…

In schools, teacher training will be overhauled, and principals will be encouraged to report racist or anti-Semitic incidents. Organized visits to memorials and other sites will also be held throughout the school year, according to the plan.

“It is through education, teaching skills and understanding of the other that we can counter the stereotypes and negative images,” said Valls…

And the Jewish community is also increasingly worried, with anti-Semitic acts doubling last year compared with 2013, prompting a rising number of Jews to leave for Israel.

“French Jews must no longer be scared to be Jewish…”

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Friday, April 17th, 2015 at 11:36 AM  | Stand for Israel

We All Stand and Remember

(Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/ASHERNET)

(Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/ASHERNET)

As yesterday was Yom HaShoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, The Fellowship’s Senior Vice President Yael Eckstein wrote about her experiences on this moving observance for those who perished and those who survived:

It’s been 70 years since the Holocaust ended, but I have spoken to countless Holocaust survivors who are still haunted by the ungodly stench of death and burning bodies.

It’s been 70 years since the concentration camps were liberated, yet they are still so alive in the mind, spirit, and consciousness of my people.

It’s been 70 years since the world first vowed “never again,” but with the recent increase of anti-Semitic acts that has occurred, it seems like that vow is already being forgotten.

Cars stop. Schools stop. Markets stop. Meetings stop. The stock market stops. And for a moment, we all stand quietly, unified, remembering.

This morning, like so many others, I stopped my car on the side of the highway just a few minutes before 10 a.m. in preparation. And as the siren began to blare, and the highway instantly transformed into a parking lot, I closed my eyes and was transported to a different world.

The images were vivid in my mind: human bodies that were nothing more than skin and bones, the yellow star on the coat of small children, the smoke rising over cities carrying the ashes of human beings, and transport trains packed with hundreds of people in one tiny car, gasping for air.

As the siren blared, I thought of how dozens of my family members perished a needless and terrifying death and how six million of my people were transformed into ashes.

And then the siren stopped.

I opened my teary eyes to see my godly, miraculous surroundings.

The land of Israel. Jews of all colors, from all four corners of the world living free and proud in our biblical homeland. Israeli soldiers with the Star of David on their shoulders. The holy language of Hebrew being revived.

My heart was overflowing with emotion. This is how the Jewish people…

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Friday, April 17th, 2015 at 8:52 AM  | Stand for Israel

On Holocaust Day in Israel, Strangers Answer the Call to a Funeral

(Photo: flickr/healinglight)

(Photo: flickr/healinglight)

Yesterday was Yom HaShoah in Israel, the Jewish state’s day of remembrance for the victims and survivors of the Holocaust. With the remaining survivors of this dark chapter in history aging, fewer remain to share with today’s generations. But, as Jodi Rudoren writes for The New York Times, many strangers in Israel answer the call to honor Holocaust survivors and victims of other anti-Semitic violence:

Most of the mourners had never met Nate Remer, who survived the Holocaust hiding in a Ukrainian forest, built a successful wholesale hardware business in Southern California and had severe dementia for 15 years before dying Tuesday at 82. They did not know his son, Gary, a professor at Tulane University, or his grandson, Moshe Alexander, who moved to Israel five years ago and works in high tech.

They came, anyway, to the hilltop funeral on Thursday, Holocaust Remembrance Day. There was Ben Pask, 29, a lawyer who took the day off because he had returned to Israel at 5:30 a.m. from the United States. There was Jessie Schechter, 59, who hurried to finish her pre-Sabbath shopping to make the 4 p.m. service, and brought a friend…

Holocaust Day is a major event in Israel. Much of the country stood silent for two minutes after a siren sounded at 10 a.m. Television channels broadcast only Holocaust-related documentaries the night before, or simply showed flickering candles. Spinning classes were canceled at Studio Mati, a gym near the Malha Mall in Jerusalem, because upbeat music is forbidden; the radio was filled with mournful melodies instead.

If attending a survivor’s funeral on Holocaust Day felt like destiny, mourning strangers is not an isolated phenomenon here. Some 30,000 people showed up last summer to bury Max Steinberg, 24, an American who had volunteered for the Israeli Army and was killed fighting in the…

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Friday, April 17th, 2015 at 8:38 AM  | Stand for Israel

Holocaust Remembrance Day Observed Worldwide

iitnApril 16 was Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the observance was honored with ceremonies throughout the world. In Israel, traffic slowed to a halt as two minutes of silence was observed throughout the country in honor of the six million Jews who were murdered during the Nazi regime of terror.

Also this week in Israel in the News:

• In his address on the Holocaust, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the proposed nuclear deal with Iran proves that the world hasn’t learned its lesson yet about genocidal regimes.
• The U.S. Senate will get 30 days to approve the terms of any nuclear agreement with Iran.
• Israeli raids have led to the capture of more than 25 Hamas operatives in the West Bank.

This week’s Israel in the News Perspective features The Fellowship’s founder and President Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein on learning from the Holocaust.

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Thursday, April 16th, 2015 at 5:00 PM  | Stand for Israel

A Story of Devastation and Triumph

Holocaust survivors light torches during ceremony at Yad Vashem. credit: ASHERNET

Holocaust survivors light torches during ceremony at Yad Vashem. credit: ASHERNET

Every Holocaust survivor is a living reminder of one of the most important historical lessons of the past hundred years. They are testaments to the anti-Semitism that engulfed Europe during the first half of the 20th century, a hatred that inflicted unprecedented horrors on the Jewish people. Yet as the community of survivors grows older and passes away, we are losing the only living proof left to remind us where this intolerance of Jews leads.

Reading historical accounts of concentration camps, visiting Holocaust museums, and watching movies about Nazi Germany do educate the next generation about the horrors of the Holocaust. But none measure up to a glance at a survivor’s tattooed arm, or the pained look in their eyes.

Every Jewish family with roots in Europe has relatives affected by the Holocaust, and these stories must be told, recorded, and handed down. Like so many others, my family also has a story of devastation and triumph.

My father was a little boy living in Romania near the Hungarian border when Hitler came to power. His grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all lived a few kilometers away in Hungary. And though he was a young boy, he recalls the fear and panic which set in when news spread about the Nazis’ plan for the Jews of Europe.

“Should we run or stay put? If we run, where do we go? Palestine? The United States? South America? How do we get there? Will we be allowed to enter?” These were the typical dinner conversations my father recalls as a little boy.

Another factor which concerned my grandparents and complicated their decision of whether to stay or go was that most of their family lived in Hungary, a country more antagonistic to Jews than Romania, and where travel restrictions were also far more stringent.

My grandparents stayed put, and my grandfather started searching for ways to sneak the rest of the family out of Hungary…

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Thursday, April 16th, 2015 at 2:35 PM  | Stand for Israel

Ukrainian Holocaust Survivors Forced to Flee Again

(Photo: screenshot)

(Photo: screenshot)

Yom HaShoah is Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, and many survivors have ended up in the Holy Land, their historic homeland. Yet there are many more survivors still living in poverty and danger elsewhere. CNN gives the story of Gregory Margolin, an elderly Holocaust survivor who The Fellowship brought to Israel from Ukraine this year:

One war was enough for Gregory Margolin.

Now 87 years old, he was a 16-year-old Jewish recruit when he fought in the Soviet Red Army. As he fought the Nazis in World War II, his family fled.

“I did not show that I was Jewish,” Margolin says. “But it did not matter because people were being killed left and right. All around me.”

This year, in Ukraine, he found himself again surrounded by war.

Margolin was a sniper who rose to be a commander in the army. His old uniform is still adorned with medals from his time in the military. His granddaughter Liora still marvels at his stories from the war. She is amazed that he managed to survive. Suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative condition that impairs memory, he struggles to remember his own life sometimes, but he remembers the horrors of war.

His eyes slowly shift back and forth as he seeks the right word. Or perhaps the right memory. His hands shake ever so slightly. It seems he knows he has lived a life. He is just trying to remember all the details.

“People were hiding in shelters under the ground,” Liora says of the stories Margolin once told. “They were being shot at point blank range. It was terrible.”

“[The Nazis] would have erased us from the Earth,” Margolin remembers. “They attacked us and we fought back…”

Margolin came over in a wave of Ukrainian Jewish immigration to Israel that coincided with the beginning of hostilities in Eastern Ukraine. The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, an organization that works to build interfaith understanding and support for Israel, has brought 600 Jews…

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Thursday, April 16th, 2015 at 8:55 AM  | Stand for Israel

Netanyahu: We Will Guarantee Life

(Photo: twitter/israelipm)

(Photo: twitter/israelipm)

Today is Yom HaShoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. At a ceremony to remember the millions murdered and to honor those who survived, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered an address that remembered the past, warned of present threats, and looked to the future of the Jewish state and her people:

Seventy years ago, the bells of freedom rang in the free world. The horrific nightmare that had engulfed all humanity in the depths of blood had come to an end in Europe. But the day the Nazis were vanquished was not only a day of relief and jubilation. It was a day of great sorrow for our nation, but also a day of reflection for world leaders. Leaders of modern countries realized that it was a propitious time to establish a new world order based on defending liberty, eradicating evil and opposing oppression. They articulated the most important lesson of World War II: democracies must not turn a blind eye to the aspirations of tyrannous regimes to expand. A conciliatory attitude toward these regimes only increases their tendency for aggression. And if this aggression is not stopped in time, humanity might find itself in a much bloodier battle.

In the years before World War II, the free world tried to appease the Nazi regime, to gain its trust, to curry its favor through gestures. There were those who warned that this compromising policy would only whet Hitler’s appetite, but these warnings were ignored due to the natural human desire for calm at all costs. And indeed, the price was exacted not long later, and it was too heavy to bear – six million of our people were slaughtered in the Holocaust, and dozens of millions of others were killed in this terrible inferno.

When the war ended, the conclusion was clear: there is no room for weakness when facing tyrannous regimes who send their murderous tentacles in every direction. Only by standing firm and adhering to the values of liberty and tolerance can we ensure…

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Thursday, April 16th, 2015 at 8:44 AM  | Stand for Israel

Holocaust Survivors Honored in Israel

(Photo: Yad Vashem)

(Photo: Yad Vashem)

As Israel observed Yom HaShoah, its Holocaust Remembrance Day, survivors of this dark period of history were honored. The Times of Israel’s Jessica Steinberg reports that at the ceremony at Yad Vashem – Israel’s official Holocaust memorial – survivors included a twin experimented on in Auschwitz, those who later fought for the Haganah and IDF, and one woman whose experiences left her unable to speak:

When the annual Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day begins Wednesday evening, the official start of the 24-hour-long period is marked with a ceremony at Yad Vashem, Israel’s official museum commemorating the Holocaust…

The torches are traditionally lit by six survivors who suffered through the travails of the Holocaust but managed to emerge alive and make their way to Israel, then just a fledgling state.

“The torchlighters really symbolize the six million victims and the survivors,” said Estee Yaari, a spokesperson for Yad Vashem. “It’s their personal stories that we are able to connect with, that create an emotional connection for many people…”

Ephraim (Moshe) Reichenberg was born in Hungary, and with his twin, Menashe, was the oldest of seven brothers and sisters.

When the entire family was deported to Auschwitz, the twins were taken to Mengele’s laboratories for experiments on their vocal cords. During the death march from Auschwitz in 1945, the two were among 22 of 160 inmates who remained alive.

The brothers eventually reached Prague, where Menashe was hospitalized, while Ephraim returned to Budapest to search for surviving family members.

He found no one, and upon returning to Prague, learned that Menashe had also died. Ephraim, who had been known as Moshe until then, changed his name to Ephraim in memory of his brother, after the biblical sons Joseph, Ephraim and Menashe…

Shela Altaraz was born in Stip, Macedonia, the youngest of four…

Altaraz’s sister, Bella, was allowed to leave because she had Italian citizenship. Their mother pushed Shela into Bella’s arms, telling her to “take the little one.” The rest of the family was forcibly deported and killed at…

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Thursday, April 16th, 2015 at 8:27 AM  | Stand for Israel

A New Perspective

(Photo: flickr/fabiomiami)

(Photo: flickr/fabiomiami)

This Passover, I decided that along with the leavened bread I was biblically forbidden to eat, I would also take a break from my daily intake of world news. I felt I needed to get away from the endless cycle of disturbing headlines, if only for the week-long holiday, and focus on my wife, my children, our extended family and friends, and most importantly, God.

I thought, hoped, and prayed that after seven days of immersing myself in the holiday spirit, I would come out of Passover with a fresh perspective, one in which my conviction to raise a Jewish family in our land, would override any concern of our enemies’ intent, and where my faith in God would overshadow any fear for the future.

When Passover had ended and I dropped my children off at school, I went home, prepared a hot cup of coffee, and ventured onto the first news website I had seen in a week. I would have loved to see the world change along with my perspective, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

In the days following the “historic agreement” between world powers and the Islamic Republic, the news from Iran was predictable.

The latest developments included the Russian announcement to deliver S-300 missiles– one of the most advanced air defense systems in the world – to Iran. Tehran has been eying the S-300 to protect their nuclear facilities from aerial attack for years, yet Russia withheld delivery as long as the international community held Iran in contempt. Now, thanks to the “historic agreement,” Russia has no qualms with selling game-changing weaponry to Iran.

Furthermore, Israeli intelligence has reported that Iran has been stepping up its weapons shipments to Hezbollah and Hamas. And why not? With the tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief the Islamic Republic is set to gain from the agreement, they now have plenty of money to buy weapons for their proxy armies around the Middle East.

As I clicked from one website to the next, and as the news went from…

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Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 at 3:48 PM  | Stand for Israel

"informing, equipping and mobilizing individuals and churches to support the
State of Israel"

Rabbi’s Commentary
We Must Take Sides

Seventy years has passed since the Holocaust, one of the darkest periods in history. However, the evil of anti-Semitism lives on. As Israel observes Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), let us continue to pray for the chains of hatred to be loosened and for the oppressed to be freed…


Read Rabbi Eckstein's message »

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