Documented 350 Shuls in 70 weeks
Dorfmans donate study to Yad Vashem (pic). They initiated the private documentation of thriving communities in pre-Holocaust Europe through photographing deserted Shuls
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350 synagogues in 70 weeks
Rivka and Ben-Zion Dorfman, both more than 90 years old, dedicated 70 weeks of their life to photograph and document more than 350 synagogues in Europe that were deserted after the Holocaust.
The couple handed their life’s work over to the Yad Vashem Archives, where staff will continue tracing the lost communities through the ruined synagogues.
“It began in 1987,” says Rivka Dorfman. “We went on a three-week vacation in Italy and saw a synagogue which really caught our imagination. It was the first, and after that we searched for other synagogues.”
Dr. Ben-Zion Dorfman says that everywhere they arrived, they looked for people with gray hair and asked, “Where is the synagogue?”
LEFT TOP: Dr. Ben-Zion Dorfman
LEFT BELOW: Rivka Dorfman
“I think we collected information about most if not all synagogues left from the World War II era,” he says. “What was left – we researched.
“In every synagogue we were resourceful. We looked for all kinds of shapes of buildings. They usually knew and agreed to show us the local synagogue, or direct us to it.
“Sometimes the synagogue was locked and we had to look for someone to give us the keys. We visited offices of mayors who helped in many places. We informed them in advance that we were on our way, and when we arrived we were welcomed respectfully quite a few times.”
Peeling paint and no roof
The couple had a letter from the Hebrew University stating that they were operating for research purposes, which they say opened many doors for them – the doors of the deserted synagogues. Behind them they mostly found ceilings with peeling paint and signs of neglect that failed to diminish the uniqueness of the places.
“We took pictures of the synagogues. There were many buildings that had changed. We didn’t focus on synagogues in the big capital cities, as those are well-known. We wanted to discover the ones in the towns. And more than once we found ruined places with no roof.”
RIGHT: Inside Yad vashem
BELOW: The Yad Vashem Centre
The Dorfmans were faced with an artistic and architectural mission. “We documented a synagogue from 1859 in western Hungary designed in the shape of a circle. The building was deserted and damaged by vandalism, but wonderful paintings remained on the dome, and after we took the pictures we figured out the captions in Hebrew.
“We saw it for the first time in 1989 and have been there two more occasions since, and each time we saw a further deterioration in its condition. Now they are talking about possible restoration plans.”
Making museums from ruins
The active involvement and concern shown by the Dorfmans for the abandoned synagogues, completely voluntarily, led several times to the posting of a sign noting that a synagogue used to stand in this place.
“In the Czech town of Rychnov we arranged a meeting at the mayor’s office in the afternoon. We arrived half an hour late, and found the deputy mayor standing in front of the city hall under an umbrella, waiting for us.
“He told us to get the interpreter. We went to the synagogue and discovered that it was being used as a warehouse for plumbing equipment. We weren’t surprised, because synagogues were used in different ways. We arrived half a century after the Holocaust, so there was time to turn them into warehouses. We wrote down everything we found, and tried to figure out what had been there before.
“The deputy mayor entered with us and was alarmed. He apologized for what had been done to the place; it’s a holy site for Jews. He promised that he would try to see what could be done.
“Over the years he convinced the people in charge to repair the synagogue, and we got pictures from him of the renovation’s progress. In one place they took off the plaster and found half a caption in Hebrew, and we completed the caption and the painting.
“When we returned to the town several years later, we found an amazing place. The synagogue building had been turned into a regional Jewish museum, and outside the building they added a monument to the victims of the Holocaust.
“Every year, on the day of the liberation of Auschwitz, the mayor and his deputy arrive and document the ceremony in memory of the local Jews who died in the Holocaust, and send us the pictures.”
The Dorfman couple, who immigrated to Israel from the United States, worked as researchers and teachers in the country. How can a couple without much wealth manage to sustain such work?
“We protected ourselves economically,” they say. “We tried to stay in people’s homes rather than at hotels, and that reduced our expenses significantly.”
The journey led to a book, “Synagogues without Jews,” and as well as lectures delivered by the two. Now, when they are in their 90s, Rivka and Ben-Zion have decided that there is no more room for the collection under their bed.
“There are pictures, videos, audio and many documents about every city and town we studied. We have rooms filled with stuff. It’s good to be free of all of this,” they say, smiling.
“Over the last decade we debated which institution should get the collection, and eventually decided that it would be Yad Vashem.”
Largest-ever pro Israel rally in Africa draws over 10 000 in Johannesburg
A pro-Israel rally under the auspices of the South African Zionist Federation, in Johannesburg on Sunday afternoon drew over 10 000 people, reportedly the largest pro-Israel rally ever to have taken place in the African continent.
…..See photographs below the story
The rally, which included a wide spectrum of political views and cultures, evoked enthusiastic comments about its “overwhelming success”. The sheer size of the multiracial crowd represented a broad slice of South African society. The rousing speeches indicated, said a speaker, that support for Israel was much stronger than it seemed in the face of the hostile public domain. “Let the government take note,” he said, “that millions of South Africans love Israel!”
There were smile and warm embraces aplenty as Jewish supporters of Israel, black African Christian groups who were bused in in their hundreds, representatives of three South African political parties, and various other Israel supporters mingled together. The rally was at Huddle Park in Linksfield, a municipal golf course and function venue.
Responding to fears about a repeat of incidents of violence from anti-Israel elements like BDS in European cities, security was extremely tight. Police were present in large numbers, as well as Jewish community security, and many of those arriving were asked for identity documents. The pre-publicity for the event had repeatedly assured people that “excellent security will be provided”. As it happened, there were no violent incidents or confrontations.
“We are living today in an upside down world, where the villains are regarded as heroes and the victims are called the villains,” said Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, addressing the cheering crowd waving thousands of Israeli and South African flags. “But we are not afraid… Israel was promised to the Jewish people some 4 000 years ago, and it is the land which belongs to the Jews.”
Ben Shwartz, an organiser, welcomed onto the stage the charismatic Olga Meshoe, daughter of Kenneth Meshoe, the leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, which has an openly pro-Israel policy as part of its basic platform. Meshoe has created an organisation called Deisi whose specific mandate is to support Israel.
She proclaimed loudly, to enthusiastic applause, that “Israel is not alone, and the Jewish people are not alone… And to the Jewish students studying at universities across South Africa who feel afraid to say they support Israel in the anti-Israel atmosphere on the campuses, I say to you, we have your back, we are with you! You are not alone!”
See more photographs below…
Adding to the diversity, black members of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) arrived dressed in Zulu attire, performing traditional dances waving Israeli and South African flags – joined by several Jewish “dancers” who mimicked them fondly. The leader of the IFP in Gauteng brought official greetings from the party and its leader, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. The IFP has long been friendly towards Israel.
They were joined by members of the Impact of Christ Ministry and other groups. At one point, dancers from the Shembe Church came onto the stage, performing their own tribal dance.
In the SA political landscape, supporting Israel makes it likely a party will lose the important Muslim vote. Yet another party, Cope, sent a representative, to the surprise of many. People among the crowd noted sarcastically that no-one from the ANC would come.
Explicit support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a recurring theme, and that Israel wanted peace with its Palestinian neighbours. Several hundred white doves were released during the singing of a Hebrew song about Jerusalem. They circled above the gathering for several minutes before flying off, as if they had been choreographed – but it was pure chance.
Left-wing SA Jews outside of the mainstream who differ in attitudes towards the conflict often complain about being ostracised for dissenting. A small group of 30 from an organisation called Jewish Voice for a Just Peace, gathered across the road to the park’s entrance, calling themselves “Joburg Jews” in opposition to “Israel’s war on civilians”. During the traffic jam at the beginning of the rally, a convoy drove past hooting to this group, waving Palestinian flags, and calling out to “Our Jewish brothers who support us!”
When SAJBD President Zev Krengel thanked President Jacob Zuma for his “balanced” approach to the crisis in Israel and Gaza and for being willing to listen to both sides, his comment touched a raw nerve among South African Jews.
The government is regarded as basically hostile to Israel, illustrated by recent negative statements by senior ANC officials such as deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, comparing Israel’s actions to the Nazis. There have been anti-Semitic tweets doing the rounds from ANC bodies commenting about Hitler being right in his attitude to Jews. The SAJBD responded by issuing damning press statements, sending a protest letter to Zuma, and even lodging a hate speech complaint to the SA Human Rights Commission.
The gathering ended on a high note after three hours, with the South African national anthem and the Israeli one. Whether this rally amounted to the converted talking to the converted, or will have a wider impact, remains to be seen.
BDS is planning more rallies of its own, and if the killing in Gaza is still ongoing, the horrendous images coming out of Gaza and Israel, will provide it with more ammunition.
Double-dose of Bev’s best reads this week!
SA Jewry’s doyen of Zionist communications, Bev Goldman, trolls the web to bring SAJR Online users the top Zionist reads of the week. Unfortunately, we let you down last week and didn’t get to post them – as many regular users reminded us. So here’s a double-dose for you – 20 great reads. Download those that appeal to you most, they make the perfect Shabbos read.
Opinion and Analysis
As usual, Bev serves up a spread of different media, multiple countries and various opinions of Zionism to choose from. The good, the bad and the ugly!
Bev brings them all. Download what you like for your relaxed Shabbos reading – many users tell us they do.
Opinion & Analysis, week ending 15 May 2014
1. Fighting terror the Israeli way
No one understands terrorists’ motivations, and knows how to counter them, better than the Israelis. And the sooner Kenya taps into Israeli counter-terror knowhow, big time, the faster this country and region will begin the long journey to becoming a virtually terror-free zone.
2. How Israel’s dusty Zionist bureaucracy survives
Jobs for cronies — and ties to a deep-pocketed generous diaspora
3. Apartheid? Blame the Geneva Convention
All occupying powers have given their own citizens more rights than the occupied noncitizens, from the British in India through the French in Algeria to the Americans in Iraq; yet none of these were ever labelled apartheid. Why should Israel be any different?
4. Palestinian Magical Thinking
The campaign to place pressure on Israel through activism on the international stage is the latest example.
5. UN replaces notorious Richard Falk – don’t expect changes
No UN rapporteur on Israel could be independent. The 1993 U.N. job description says the mandate holder must investigate only Israel’s human rights violations. Investigating Palestinians is off limits.
6. BDS movement: Barbarians at the Gate – Part l
The Nazis invented the Jewish boycott — and went on from there to the Holocaust. One might well ask if the boycotters’ real concern is the welfare of the Palestinian or actually, as it clearly appears, the obliteration of Israel. It is the wrong boycott in the wrong place at the wrong time.
7. BDS movement: Barbarians inside the Gates – Part ll
These politically correct activists are all supposed to be anti-racists and multiculturalists. Yet when artists are banned just because they happened to be born in Israel, it tears apart the very basis of both anti-racism and multiculturalism.
8. Happy 66th birthday, Israel!
I have enormous admiration for Israel – for its resolve, resilience, courage, and ingenuity. What it has achieved in the past 66 years is breath-taking: the rebirth of a state with a rock-solid democratic foundation; the ingathering of millions of refugees and immigrants from just about every corner of the world; the creation of a world-class economy; the building of a first-rate army; and a determination to overcome one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after another.
9. The right way to press Iran
The Obama administration should focus on three factors: conducting intrusive inspections, designing a mechanism to easily re-impose sanctions if Iran cheats, and extending the duration of the agreement.
10. The Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist organisations
“[T]he organization of the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization, and anyone who asks either to reconcile with them, to join them or to ally with them is himself a terrorist.” — Refaat Saïd, leader of Egypt’s Socialist party, al-Tagammu’, and previously close friend of former Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide, Mahdi Akef.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the motto of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis is also the verse singled out by Hassan al Banna: “Fight them until there is no fitnah [discord], and [until] the religion, all of it, is for Allah.” [Qur’an, Sura VIII, verse 39]
The link between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas is clear, and confirmed by Article 2 of the Charter of Hamas, which reads: “The Islamic Resistance movement is one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine”.
11. Why it is hypocritical to boycott Israel
Later this month, I am planning to travel to Israel to appear in the Jerusalem literary festival. As surely as night follows day, I have received an “open letter” from a group of 71 activists calling themselves the British Writers in Support of Palestine (BWIP). They were, I was informed, “extremely disappointed” by my decision, and “respectfully encouraged” me to boycott the event. But I am honoured to have been invited to Israel, and will be proud to attend.
Opinion & Analysis, week ending 6 May 2014
1. Memorial Day in Israel
Friends, I wrote this a few years back, and I can’t think of a single word I’d add. I share it with you again. Every blessing, Naomi
2. Why (Israeli-Palestinian) negotiations collapsed
Recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is, for Abbas and the Palestinian leadership, if not the majority of Palestinians, a declaration that Jews have historic rights as a nation and a people, not simply a religion. Such a declaration would end the conflict once and for all by mandating that a Jewish nation-state may stand alongside a Palestinian state. And for those reasons it was out of the question.
3. The tragic history of the two-state solution
The Palestinians, and their appointed (or un-appointed) Arab representatives, have passed up numerous opportunities over an almost 80-year period to divide Palestine among its two native peoples, Arabs and Jews.
4. The heavens shine on Israel
My net assessment of Israel’s strategic and internal situation is astonishingly optimistic. In overall perspective, Israel is stronger than any of its enemies. Neither the perpetual Palestinian conundrum, nor the acute Iranian threat to Israel, nor the unstable regional situation make me a pessimist. Nor do Kerry’s miserable prophesies
5. Note to the USA: We’re not children
The dispute between the Arabs and the Jews, between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and the story of the return of the Jewish people to their homeland, is unique and unparalleled in human history. The fact that the two sides are finding it difficult to reach a compromise and make the necessary “tough decisions,” to quote the U.S. president, should therefore come as no surprise.
6. Palestinian Unity: An awkward product of Israel’s indifference
My best bet is that the challenges confronting a unity government, lack of any real trust and the ongoing internecine competition for power will torpedo these efforts. We and the antagonists will be stuck with the no war/no peace reality that has perpetually dogged relations between Israelis and Palestinians and from which there seems no way out.
7. Moving beyond the doomed ‘peace process’
The demand for a return to pre-1967 borders is bizarre, to say the least. In 1967, there were no borders, just ceasefire lines drawn in 1948 — lines that symbolized an unstable status quo that led to two wars. Going back to them means returning to a situation that breeds war, not peace.
8. Israel, Kerry is one of your best friends
Friends of Israel should start by thanking Kerry for his commitment to Israel and supporting him as he seeks to break the present impasse in negotiations.
9. Palestinian-Israeli talks: time for a “time-out”
Given the importance that the exercise of leverage will assume in any successful recalibration of America’s approach, none of this will succeed without President Obama deciding that this is really a top priority.
The Views expressed here are not
necessarily those of the SAZF
The best Zionism reads of the week
SA Jewry’s communications doyen Bev’ Goldman’s top picks of Zionist writings over the past week. Print your choice of these Op-Ed pieces, they make the perfect Shabbos read…
Bev Goldman is the doyen of South African Zionist communicators – having spent almost a decade at the helm of the SAZF’s communications department, producing the FedSpeak newspaper and running Media Team Israel.
To keep Report readers current, Bev scans dozens of op-ed pieces in SA and the world media on Zionism so that she can offer us her weekly pick of the best and most interesting, challenging and positive Zionist reading. Bev is also deeply involved in Zionist education.
Opinion & Analysis, Week ending 19 March
1. Israel’s character as a “Jewish state”
BICOM Briefing, BICOM, 18 March 2014
Most Israeli Jews wish to preserve Israel’s current character as a democratic state with a Jewish majority; a state that allows Jews to express the universal legal right to national self-determination, but which also protects fully the rights of non-Jewish minorities.
2. The woman who saved Syria’s Jews
Three decades ago, Judy Feld Carr started smuggling members of Syria’s minority Jewish community out of the country. She talks to The Daily Beast about her secret work saving people from slaughter under Assad.
3. Putin, Ukraine and the Jews
It is clearly in our national interest, without being under any idealistic illusions, to nurture ties with a Russia whose leader seems to have dramatically broken with centuries of Tsarist and Bolshevik anti-Semitism and now displays friendship towards the Jewish people.
4. The Cape Town Declaration: Dead in the Water?
Ant Katz, PoliticsWeb, 17 March 2014
The Cape Town Declaration is dead in the water, says ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley. “This is huge,” she says, “it’s been a great victory for everyone who has been working for common sense to prevail.” The Cape Town Declaration will not be tabled before this or any other Parliament.
5. The debate is about our right to exist
No Arab state recognizes our right as Jews to any part of the region. They obscure the issue and talk about “recognizing Israel,” since the desire is to perpetuate the conflict even after a diplomatic treaty is signed, when the false claim will be that the Arab minority in Israel is suffering under “apartheid” and should have autonomy, since they belong to the Palestinian people who have been here since the dawn of creation.
6. Eight crucial questions for Abbas (and one for President Obama)
There seems to be a double-standard when it comes to how Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Palestinian Authority’s erstwhile President, Mahmoud Abbas — now in the tenth year of his four-year term — are treated by the Obama White House, as well as by many journalists.
7. Putin’s terrifying warmongering
On March 8th, some 15,000 women and children lined the roads of Crimea, and Kherson Province to its north, in protest against President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian women didn’t come out in force just because it happened to be International Women’s Day. They were also responding to Putin’s threat to implicate them and their children in further acts of war against Ukraine.
8. Iran: Kurds tortured and hanged
Shadi Paveh, Gatestone Institute, 13 March 2014
198 people have been hanged so far in 2014 — a period of only two and a half months. “The court told me, ‘You are an enemy of God. You must be hanged very soon.’ That was the sum of my entire court process. I don’t have any lawyer to defend me,” said Ms. Zainab Jalalian. Iran’s grotesque human rights violations, the rise in executions, or the fate of three Americans — Amir Hekmati, Pastor Saeed Abedini and Robert Levinson — held as political prisoners inside Iran, were not even discussed during the historic negotiations between the United States and Iran in late 2013.
9. To fight anti-Semitism we must define it
For all its ubiquity, there is no constructive discussion taking place about anti-Semitism. We accuse and they deny. There is no common ground.
10. Picking sides on the ‘world stage’
Some of the world’s most notorious gangsters, mass murderers and torturers will be having their affairs attended to and their interests minded with the most assiduous attention to decorum and manners with the opening of the annual sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
NOTE: The views expressed in certain articles are not necessarily those of the South African Zionist Federation
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