Archive for the tag 'holocaust'

Cymbrowitz welcomes Holocaust survivor Zipora Yakuboff to the podium. (Source: Cymbrowitz's office)

Cymbrowitz welcomes Holocaust survivor Zipora Yakuboff to the podium. (Source: Cymbrowitz’s office)

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz spent this past Sunday with kids from across the community who wrote essays and poetry, did performances and created art to recognize the lessons of the Holocaust.

The ceremony, held at Kingsborough Community College’s Marine Academic Center, is the culmination of the pol’s annual contest, attracting hundreds of students from public and private elementary, middle and high schools across the district. Approximately 350 entries were received this year.

(See photos and coverage from previous years here, here and here.)

“It is imperative that we never forget the lessons of those who survived the Holocaust, as well as the tragic lessons of those who did not survive,” Cymbrowitz said, according to a press release. “In an era in which some historians are trying to rewrite history and deny that the Holocaust ever happened, we need to hear these stories and preserve them. We need to pass these stories on to future generations to remind people of what can happen when hatred is allowed to grow.”

The ceremony exhibited all of the creative displays made by students. There was also musical performances by the Edward R. Murrow High School Madrigal Chorus, Chamber Orchestra and Chamber Winds. Holocaust survivor Zipora Yakuboff shared her story of loss, courage and eventual escape from a Nazi death camp.

The Amity School took home first-place for high school students, and top honors were also given to Prospect Park Yeshiva, Midwood High School and Bay Academy.

See photos of some of the displays.

holocaust Memorial park nyc

The eternal light at the center of Holocaust Memorial Park was extinguished during Superstorm Sandy. Now, 17 months later, the light is shining again.

News came from the offices of Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who said the councilman worked with the Parks Department to repair the facilities there.

“Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once said, ‘To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time,’ with these poignant words in mind, I am proud to announce that my efforts in conjunction with the Holocaust Memorial Park Committee to have the park’s eternal flame relit have been successful,” Deutsch said in a statement. “This flame, which was extinguished during Hurricane Sandy, will once again shine brightly, symbolizing our resiliency, and reminding future generations of one of the darkest periods in the history of man, and insure that we never forget, and never again allow such human injustice and genocide to occur in the future.”

It’s not so clear if the light was actually on before Superstorm Sandy. The 15-foot-tall fixture has been problematic for years, with park stewards complaining that it frequently goes out and can take the Parks Department long stretches to replace it.

During one incident in 2010, the bulb was out for several weeks. Parks Department replaced it, but it failed again several days later.

Delays in replacing it can happen because of the city’s procurement policies. The custom bulb needs to be ordered in bulk, and if none are on hand parkgoers will have to wait for the city’s next big order.

But Deutsch’s office said that the problems from Sandy went far beyond the bulb. The light’s electrical wires were damaged from the salt water and needed to be completely replaced. The department sought to do it in February, but the snowstorms pushed delays to the end of March.

Rabbi Menahem Zarkh leads the memorial service in prayer.

Rabbi Menahem Zarkh leads the memorial service in prayer.

Local survivors of the Nazi atrocities during World War II braved frigid weather to gather with family and friends and commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day yesterday.

Organized by the Be Proud Foundation, about 35 Southern Brooklyn members of the Russian-American Jewish community came together for prayer and remembrance on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp by Soviet troops, when 7,000 remaining prisoners were freed. The day is recognized worldwide in memory of all victims of the Holocaust.

“A lot of relatives of mine died and survived the Holocaust,” said Ruslan Gladkovitser, a member of Be Proud Foundation’s Board of Directors who put the event together. Gladkovitser said his grandmother and aunt were among those killed by the Nazis. “So we celebrate the survivors, and make a memory.”

The service took place in Russian, Hebrew and Yiddish, with local rabbis leading the service in prayer and discussing the importance of remembering the struggles of Jewish people.

Rabbi Avrohom Winner of the Chabad of Manhattan Beach led the Yiddish portion.

“I said thank God we are alive, life is continuing,” he told Sheepshead Bites after the event. “Our gathering is something that represents our victory over our enemies, who have tried to kill all the world’s Jews.

Rabbi Menahem Zarkh of Nevsky Yablokoff Memorial Chapels spoke to the crowd in Russian, discussing the need of the Jewish people to be ever vigilant in the modern world. He noted that Jews still have many enemies, particularly Islamic extremists in Israel.

The Holocaust Memorial Park at Emmons Avenue and West End Avenue became the city’s first public memorial to the Holocaust when it was dedicated in 1985, and the permanent memorial was completed and dedicated in 1997.

Barbara Sukowa as Hannah Arendt. Source: IMDb

Barbara Sukowa as Hannah Arendt. Source: IMDb

The Beth El Jewish Center of Flatbush invites all to its fall film series, with a showing of the controversial biopic “Hannah Arendt,” about the journalist for “The New Yorker” who penned “Eichmann in Jerusalem.”

The film will be screened this Saturday, December 14, at 7:00 p.m. inside the synagogue’s daily chapel, 1981 Homecrest Avenue at Avenue T.

The film’s trailer can be seen here.

The series is free, and all are welcome to attend. For further information, call (718) 375-0120.

Honoring real survivors at a Holocaust Memorial Park ceremony. Photo by Erica Sherman

The ringleader of a $57.3 million fraud scheme that siphoned money from of a Holocaust reparations fund was sentenced to eight years behind bars yesterday, announced United States Attorney Preet Bharara.

Semen Domnitser played a pivotal role in the scheme, prosecutors say, having worked as a caseworker and program director that processed the fraudulent applications in return for kickbacks. Domnitser gave his seal of approval to ineligible recipients, many of whom were born after World War II and at least one that was not even Jewish.

In addition to eight years in prison, Domnitser was sentenced to three years of supervised release, ordered to forfeit $59,230 and pay restitution in the amount of $57.3 million.

“As the highest ranking insider to participate in this despicable fraud against the Holocaust Claims Conference, Mr. Domnitser played an integral role in the scheme by processing fraudulent applications to the Conference and turning a profit of thousands of dollars for himself,” said Bharara in a press release. “With today’s sentence, he will be held to account for victimizing Holocaust survivors by diverting funds meant to help them to his own pocket and contributing to this $57 million scheme.”

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Bronislaw Huberman, founder of the Israel Philharmonic. Source: bronislawhuberman.com

Bronislaw Huberman, founder of the Israel Philharmonic. Source: bronislawhuberman.com

The Beth El Jewish Center of Flatbush invites all to its fall film series, kicking off with a screening of the documentary “Orchestra of Exiles,” Monday, September 30 at 7:30 p.m. inside the synagogue’s daily chapel, 1981 Homecrest Avenue at Avenue T.

The film tells the story of the founding of the Palestine Philharmonic — which grew into the world famous Israel Philharmonic — in the 1930s by Bronislaw Huberman, a Polish musician who worked to saved fellow musicians from the impending Holocaust. The film combines Holocaust history with an appreciation of great music.

The series is free, and all are welcome to attend. For further information, call (718) 375-0120.

K

Shkolnikov, left, presents Kings Bay Y Executive Director Leonard Petlakh with a check as Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz and City Council candidates David Storobin and Chaim Deutsch look on.

Neighbors gathered with Kings Bay YM-YWHA members, local leaders and Holocaust survivors on Sunday to celebrate the contributions of boardmember Eugene Shkolnikov, and to honor him as he handed over $10,000 for an at-risk youth leadership program he helped create.

Shkolnikov scored the funds from the program from his employer, Northwestern Mutual, who awarded the money at Shkolnikov’s direction after he won the company’s community service award.

The program, which is kicking off its second year, is called Aharai, Hebrew for “Follow me.” It recruits at-risk tweens and teens to develop leadership skills and promotes community involvement, as well as education through interaction with Holocaust survivors. Shkolnikov created the program and funded its first year out of his own pocket, saying he was inspired by a trip he took through a Kings Bay Y program that brought him to Auschwitz.

“When I was in Auschwitz, I saw and I felt things that I thought I knew about, but I had no idea that it was real. It was a very different feeling when I was in Auschwitz,” Shkolnikov told Sheepshead Bites. “I have a 9-year-old daughter, and I know about Holocaust, but how can I tell her? So that’s why I thought it would be very important for the kids, a young generation, to have people who actually went through the Holocaust to educate them what the Holocaust was all about.”

Shkolnikov was one of 20 people out of thousands who work for Northwestern Mutual to receive the annual award.

In addition to Aharai, Shkolnikov’ has made previous donations to the Kings Bay Y, resulting in a library and mirrored dance studio.

Kings Bay Y Executive Directory Leonard Petlakh gave a public thank you during the Sunday ceremony.

“The lessons [of the Holocaust] are still being taught to our children and our grandchildren. We’re blessed to have a program like Aharai. Eugene’s probably one of the best known philanthropists in this community, someone who opens up his heart and his wallet for the community,” said Petlakh. “It is a great example for the entire community to follow.”

The intergenerational ceremony featured a concert by Holocaust survivors and a presentation of survivors’ testimonies by Aharai teens.

Source: Gifter Photos via Twitter via Gothamist

Source: Gifter Photos via Twitter via Gothamist

If you went to Coney Island or Brighton Beach on Sunday afternoon, you might have noticed a plane tugging a banner with a swastika emblazoned on it that also read “peace + love proswastika.org.” According to a report by the Village Voice, the banner was flown by a religious sect known as the Raelians in an attempt to “rehabilitate” the swastika symbol.

As the plane soared over the beaches of Coney Island, Rockaway Beach and Long Island, people took to Twitter to post pictures and express disbelief over the bizarre message floating in the sky.

Erin Armo, a loyal Johnny Depp fan according to her Twitter page, was one of the stunned witnesses.

“At the beach a plane dragging a banner that says “swastika = peace + love proswastika.org ” just flew by…what the actual f,” Armo tweeted.

The Village Voice took on the task of answering Armo’s legitimate question:

Good question, young lady! We’ll tell you what the actual F. Sunday was the fourth annual “Swastika Rehabilitation Day,” according to ProSwastika, the site on the aforementioned banner. The gist of the “holiday,” if we can call it that, is that before the swastika was a Nazi symbol, it was a Sanskrit one, and it’s simply not fair to let the mean old Nazis appropriate the whole thing.

We’ll let the ProSwastikateers take it from here:

The word swastika is derived from the Sanskrit svastika (in Devanagari, स्वस्तिक), meaning any lucky or auspicious object, and in particular a mark made on persons and things to denote good luck. It is composed of su- (cognate with Greek ευ-, “eu-”), meaning “good, well,” and asti, a verbal abstract to the root as “to be”; svasti thus means “well-being.” The suffix -ka forms a diminutive, and svastika might thus be translated literally as “little thing associated with well-being”.The swastika symbol is one of the oldest symbols on the Earth and can be found in all religions and traditions, on all continents!

Despite the followers of Raelism supporting bizarre notions like clitoris rehabilitation centers in Burkina Faso, cloning humans and interactions with aliens at volcano parks, I wonder if they have a small point.

The Nazis were a group of pure evil and they appropriated a symbol, albeit a reversed one, from an otherwise peaceful origin. Should this symbol now stand for tyranny and evil for the rest of time? The answer is probably yes.

There is a reason that the sight of a swastika is hated and singled out and that is because as a society, we can’t forget how only a few generations ago, the madness of Nazism swept across Europe, nearly destroying it.

Last month, we reported on a reverse swastika drawn on a Courier-Life news box in Midwood, and while the assumption was that it was the work of a hateful punk it could have very well been a local Raelist or Buddhist. Either way, the confusion reflects naivety of the Raelists in their effort to “rehabilitate” the swastika. They should probably wait a few thousand years before pulling stunts like this again.

Source: Tracy O. via Flickr

The forger of phony papers that allowed a Brighton Beach-based ring of individuals to ripoff more than $57 million from a reparations fund for Holocaust victims was sentenced to serve nearly two years in prison last week.

The New York Post reports:

A weeping Dora Grande bowed her head in shame and let out a whimper after Manhattan federal Judge Thomas Griesa said she deserved a “meaningful penalty” for forging about 300 documents at $100 a pop while working as a translator and notary public in Brooklyn.

In addition to the 21 months prison time — just three months shy of the maximum under her plea deal — Griesa ordered Grande to forfeit the $30,000 she pocketed through the scam, and also pay $75,000 in restitution.

Defense lawyer Glenn Morak argued that Grande, 65, had no idea that her fake birth certificates would be used in a massive scheme to rip off the Manhattan-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

But prosecutor Christopher Frey said Grande “basically turned a blind eye” to her clients’ plans, noting that “the fraud permeated the Brighton Beach community” where she lives.

Authorities busted as many as 19 individuals for their role in the scheme in November 2010. Prosecutors claimed that Brighton Beach residents worked with insiders responsible for verifying applications to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims, doling out kickbacks to approve fraudulent paperwork submitted by Russian immigrants. The scheme went back as far as 1994, authorities alleged.

The Conference is responsible for disbursing funds on behalf of the German government to survivors. One of the ringleaders of the scheme, Semen Domnitser, allegedly signed off on more than 4,000 applications in question. Prosecutors asked recipients to pay back their ill-gotten gains, although did not seek action against them.

The first case against the ring concluded in August 2011, when Polina Anoshina, a 63-year-old Brighton Beach resident accused of plundering the Conference on Jewish Material Claims for $9,000 and roping 30 friends and neighbors into the scam, was sentenced to one year in prison.

Others have since been sentenced as well.

Richard Landman and representatives from the Roma community unveiled the new stone honoring Roma and Sinti victims at a May 5 ceremony.

Salgado (Source: Erick Salgado for Mayor)

Long-shot mayoral candidate Erick Salgado is entering the fray over Sheepshead Bay’s Holocaust Memorial Park, blasting the Parks Department for allowing the addition of stones memorializing non-Jewish victims.

A press release issued last week to Russian and Jewish news outlets but obtained by Sheepshead Bites quotes Salgado calling the installation of five new stones for non-Jewish victims “a betrayal of the community and even worse, disrespectful to the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust.”

The stones, which honor groups including the disabled, Roma, homosexuals and Jehovah’s Witnesses, were dedicated during a May 5 ceremony marred by a protest led by City Council candidate and Holocaust Memorial Committee member Ari Kagan. The protesters claimed that the group of activists who successfully pushed the new stones through had pulled an end-run around the committee, by going through the Parks Department.

Richard Landman, the gay son of Holocaust survivors who spearheaded the initiative for the stones, said that those allegations are phony, and that he had attempted to go through the committee and was repeatedly denied – with no explanation – over the course of 15 years. Landman, an attorney, complained to the city that the committee’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious,” and in violation of the state constitution. The Parks Department established an appeals process for the memorial as a result, and created a Blue Ribbon advisory panel to review Landman’s request – ultimately greenlighting it.

The stones were installed in June 2012, and dedicated on May 5, 2013.

But Salgado, a conservative reverend from Staten Island, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor, sided with Kagan and the committee, claiming that the Parks Department should have ceded the decision on the stones to the local committee, in accordance with their Memorandum of Understanding.

“It is of great concern that a bureaucracy such as the Parks Department would take action that is counter to the community’s wishes, especially when it involves the memory of the six million who perished in the Holocaust and the thousands of Holocaust survivors and their families who visit the memorial each year,” Salgado said. “Was the proper decision pushed to the side by political concerns?”

Here’s the press release in full:

May 8, 2013

Mayoral Candidate Erick Salgado Blasts Parks Department’s Action

Controversial Memorial Stones Installed in Holocaust Memorial Park Without Community’s Approval

Mayoral Candidate Erick Salgado has termed the New York City Parks Department’s move to install five controversial memorial stones in Sheepshead Bay’s Holocaust Memorial Park, “a betrayal of the community and even worse, disrespectful to the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust.”

Salgado was referring to the Parks Department’s installation of large stones with inscriptions memorializing such groups as asocial elements (alcoholics and lesbians), political prisoners, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals. The inclusion of these stones was contrary to the wishes of the Board of the Holocaust Memorial Committee, which under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Parks Department has been administering the memorial since its dedication in 1997.

The five stones were installed unceremoniously last July, but an unveiling ceremony was held Sunday by several organizations from outside the community.

“It is of great concern that a bureaucracy such as the Parks Department would take action that is counter to the community’s wishes, especially when it involves the memory of the six million who perished in the Holocaust and the thousands of Holocaust survivors and their families who visit the memorial each year. Was the proper decision pushed to the side by political concerns?” Salgado asked.

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