Wednesday, July 17, 2019

At Auschwitz, an exhibit takes an unprecedented look at religion and survival

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Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

 Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.

Last Friday's Jerusalem Post had a story about a new art exhibit at Auschwitz. It of course inspired this post and the realization that geographically, it is not far from Krakow, where I will be bli-nederlater this year in August, meeting my brother.

Being close, I will figure out a way to get there from Krakaw and see the sight of the camp, although I never had the desire before, I might as well take it off my bucket list. If someone has been there, let me know the easiest way to get there from Krakow and if there are Jewish tours available.

Love Yehuda Lave

Ask For Help

You don't have to do it alone. Your loving Father and powerful King, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, is waiting to help you. Pray to Him. Ask Him for help in mastering patience. Ask Him for the strength to be patient with His other children. Ask Him for the strength to be as patient as necessary to serve Him with joy and love. Ask Him for the strength for the patience to gain all the knowledge and skills to make the most of your stay on this planet.

Love Yehuda Lave

At Auschwitz, an exhibit takes an unprecedented look at religion and survival

Through the Lens of Faith' focuses on 21 survivors who discuss how their relationship with God and the divine evolved during and after their internment at the death camp By Rich Tenorio 30 June 2019,

Auschwitz survivor Avraham Zelcer stares intently into the camera. His rolled-up sleeve reveals the number tattooed onto his left forearm over three-quarters of a century ago, when he was deported to the infamous concentration camp from his native Czechoslovakia. Although the camp was liberated on January 27, 1945, Zelcer did not return to his Jewish faith until a year later.

It is understandable that experiencing the horrors of Auschwitz could try one's religious beliefs. The camp claimed over 1.1 million lives during World War II, including almost a million Jews. Yet some prisoners managed to hold onto their faith. Their story is told in an upcoming exhibit at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim, Poland, which will run through most of 2020, the 75th anniversary of the camp's liberation.

"Through the Lens of Faith" focuses on 21 Auschwitz survivors who discussed the role of their religious beliefs in relation to their time at the camp. Opening July 1, the project is a partnership between three acclaimed experts in their respective fields: photographer Caryl Englander, architect Daniel Libeskind and museum curator Henri Lustiger Thaler, all of whom spoke about the project with The Times of Israel.


Over three years, Englander, the chair of the International Center of Photography, shot color photographs of each survivor while they were being interviewed by Lustiger Thaler, the chief curator of the Amud Aish Memorial Museum in Brooklyn, the first museum to address the Holocaust from a faith-based perspective. Israeli-American Libeskind — a Polish-born son of Holocaust refugees, whose projects include the Ground Zero redesign and the Jewish Museum Berlin — created steel panels to encase the photos, with glass sections displaying testimony from the interviews.

Of the 21 survivors, 11 are women and 10 are men. (Poignantly, two of the 21 have died since being interviewed.) They include 18 Jews, two Polish Catholics and one Sinti, or Romani. The number of Jews reflects the numerical value of the Hebrew word "chai," or "life."

A profile of Avraham Zelcer as part of 'Through the Lens of Faith,' running through 2020 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim, Poland. (Courtesy Henri Lustiger Thaler)

"It's really an interfaith exhibit, trying to understand the role of faith and religion for survivors able to get through Auschwitz," Lustiger Thaler said.

Some, like Zelcer, struggled to return to their faith. Others, like Lea Friedler of Israel, said that God was working in the camp to keep them alive through a combination of miracle, blessings and messengers.

Lustiger Thaler said that "religion was, one could assume, important to the majority of people deported to Auschwitz," including Jews, Polish Catholics and Sinti/Romani. He added that the exhibit represents "the first time this element of faith is being incorporated, and the first time it's going to be in front of the gates of Auschwitz."

A profile of Lea Friedler as part of 'Through the Lens of Faith,' running through 2020 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim, Poland. (Courtesy Henri Lustiger Thaler)'Invisible faces'

Extending for 25 meters, the exhibit is situated on both sides of a path off the route leading to the memorial and museum. The vertical steel panels evoke the stripes of a concentration camp prisoner's uniform, while their mirrored exteriors reflect the freedom of the wider world outside.

The location of the exhibit is "really where all people disembark when they are about to enter the camp itself," Libeskind said. "It's where people first encounter where they are, a large gathering point just before the entrance to the actual site… Of course, it does not negate that every place [in Auschwitz] is a place of death."

As he noted, there is "the question of other invisible faces, those who did not survive, 99.99 percent of the story."

'Through the Lens of Faith,' an exhibit running through 2020 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim, Poland. (Courtesy Daniel Libeskind)

The Auschwitz death toll includes an estimated 960,000 Jews, 74,000 non-Jewish Poles and 21,000 Sinti, according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Lustiger Thaler, Englander and Libeskind all lost family members in the Holocaust — including members of Lustiger Thaler's family who died at Auschwitz. (His mother was liberated at Bergen-Belsen.) The camp's victims also include German-Jewish artist Felix Nussbaum, whom Libeskind memorialized in one of his earliest projects, the Felix Nussbaum Haus in Osnabrück, Germany.

"The Felix Nussbaum Haus made me realize that when people say 6 million Jews were murdered [in the Holocaust], I realized you cannot identify with, you don't understand, what 6 million means," Libeskind said.

However, he added, the Nussbaum Haus showed "how the power of a single individual, a single story, told me beyond any statistic with a number of zeros after it" — just as the "few portraits" of the Auschwitz exhibit are "almost bigger than the story you read in an encyclopedia or book that can't possibly connect you."

"We cannot identify with one million, one thousand, one hundred people," Libeskind said. "We might [identify] with one [person], 18, 20, 30."

'Through the Lens of Faith,' an exhibit running through 2020 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim, Poland. (Courtesy Daniel Libeskind)Adding a dimension

"Through the Lens of Faith" began as a concept that Lustiger Thaler successfully pitched to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. He brought Englander on board for the interviews with survivors over the next few years across a variety of locations, including New York, Florida, Israel, Poland and Canada.

They were children and young adults when they arrived at Auschwitz, with the youngest four years old and the oldest 20. Now, located through survivor networks at Aish Amud and through the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, they ranged from ages 80 to 102, with most in their 90s and many, including Friedler and Zelcer, having raised large families.

Museum curator Henri Lustiger Thaler. (Courtesy)

"These are very aged individuals," Lustiger Thaler said. "We have captured the last living survivors of Auschwitz — a very important metaphor for the 75th commemoration [of liberation]."

Lustiger Thaler had conducted hundreds of previous interviews with survivors for Amud Aish. He said that Englander brought a new aspect to the work, "a whole other dimension — the image."

Englander recalled facing "agonizing" decisions over the photoshoots: "Black and white? Standing? Sitting? Face shots?" She said that she "looked at tons of books, portraits in Auschwitz," and "discussed it with a lot of people — rabbis, scholars, philosophers."

She decided on "very colorful" portraits taken with her digital Canon 5D Mark IV.

"All of them were dressed in their best Shabbat clothes or wedding clothes," she said. "They looked really handsome and beautiful… I wanted them to be proud. They are heroes."

And, Englander noted, "These are not victims. They're gorgeous people with hope, resilience, appreciation, kindness," with most of them urging people to be kind to each other. "I learned so much from them," she said.

So did Lustiger Thaler.

"The question is, how does that culture of faith interact with what they were experiencing, the deathworld they walked into," he said. "There were a lot of good questions I posed to survivors around the relationship of faith individually to them and also faith collectively with other Jews."

Photographer Caryl Englander. (Courtesy)Searing impressions

Survivors Zelcer and Friedler both recalled arriving at Auschwitz on the holiday of Shavuot. Each was 16 years old. Friedler arrived with her mother and two orphans. A fellow prisoner told her mother, "Stay with your daughter." Friedler said this was divine intervention that saved the lives of her and her mother.

"I remember every single interview of the 21 very clearly," Lustiger Thaler said. "Each one gave me another viewpoint on how to understand faith and the Holocaust, and the complex relationship between the two."

It's a relationship that historically has not received much attention, according to exhibit organizers. (There is also a nonreligious side to the Auschwitz narrative; its dead include 15,000 Soviet POWs, and the camp was liberated by the Red Army.) Lustiger Thaler said that as recently as the 1990s, while Orthodox accounts of the Holocaust appeared in published memoirs and stories, they were absent from the larger memorial world, which he describes as secular.

Architect Daniel Libeskind. (Stefan Ruiz)

Englander said that while the Holocaust brought suffering and brutality to all of its victims, it might bring "a different, additional layer to a religious population," such as a man whose peyos, or sidelocks, were shaved off, or a "very modest" woman forced to take a shower or use a toilet in the presence of a male guard with a machine gun.

She added that religious people who survived the Holocaust and said that God had a purpose for them were mocked by others who asked, "What God could do that to you?"

"If they committed to have new families, as some religious people did — Hasidic, Orthodox, Haredi, non-Orthodox religious — they held back their stories," Englander said, adding that not only did they refrain from telling the next generation, they also did not share their accounts with famous Holocaust researchers such as Steven Spielberg.

"They could tell right away [the researchers] had no connection with how they felt," Englander said, "being willing to die to hide tefillin [phylacteries] or giving [up] a piece of bread so they could have matza for the haggada for Passover."

She called these "nuances really not seen before" in Holocaust testimony.

Libeskind recalls multiple members of his family who drew upon their religion to help them survive the Holocaust. Among them was an uncle from his mother's side who endured Auschwitz, immigrated to Mandatory Palestine, remained in the State of Israel and founded a devout Hasidic family. Libeskind also mentioned his father's only sister, a survivor who remarried; both bride and groom had lost children in Auschwitz.

'Through the Lens of Faith,' an exhibit running through 2020 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim, Poland. (Courtesy Daniel Libeskind)

"Strangely enough, I never thought about people I knew who survived, who did survive, and continued through their faith as Jews," Libeskind said. "It interested me. I never thought about faith as a way to survive."

"It's something I was very interested in pursuing with the installation. The installation is a space, a place of encounter, between what you know and what you don't know," he said.

For Lustiger Thaler, it's a different kind of mixture of opposites that make the exhibit so powerful.

"It will speak about freedom at the end of it — freedom, resilience, hope emerging from the deathworld, a life-negating place, this deathworld of Auschwitz," he said, "a combination between meeting the holy in the space of the profane."


Thoughts to think about

One way to keep the momentum going is to have constantly greater goals!

So, you're telling me after all these years of therapy is that I'm just nuts?!

What you don't see with your eyes, don't invent with your mouth.--Judge Judy

Go as far as you can see. When you get there, you'll see further.--Zig Ziglar

NEVER LOSE HOPE. You never know what tomorrow may bring.--Charlie Brown

My body knows how old I am--but my mind refuses to believe it.

In Hebrew 'influence' is - השפעה - HASHHPA'AH  To influence - להשפיע - LE'HASHPI'A   These words are derived from the root שפע - SHEFA, which means abundance    So, in Hebrew 'to influence' has actually a very positive connotation - 'to provide abundance' to others.

What to Know About Eye Floaters and Flashes

  They can be harmless or signal a vision-threatening problem by Andrea Barbalich, AARP,

Almost everyone will experience eye floaters in their lifetime, especially as they get older. They're those tiny spots or lines that look like they're in front of the eye, but they are actually floating inside it. Flashes, which look like streaks of lightning, are more common with age, too. Most of the time, neither floaters nor flashes are cause for worry. But under certain circumstances, they require immediate medical attention. Here's what you need to know to protect your vision.

What they are Floaters can be disconcerting. Floaters tend to move as the eye moves — for example, moving up when the eye moves up and settling downward when the eyes are still. They're easier to see on a uniform background (a white wall or a blue sky), or after doing activities that require frequent and quick side-to-side or up-and-down movements, such as driving or reading. Flashes are different. They're more noticeable in the dark, so people may not be aware of them during the day.
Many people just learn to live with them.  

People who are very nearsighted (myopic) are at higher risk for floaters and flashes: People who have uncontrolled diabetes are also at higher risk because they may have bleeding in the retina, which can manifest as floaters, And trauma, such as a car accident or a punch in the eye, can cause a posterior vitreous detachment or a tear. Recent eye surgery, such as cataract surgery, can do the same.  

Stories of hope at new Auschwitz art installation

Had he been around to see the installation go up, Viktor Frankl would, no doubt, not have been surprised by the survivors' sunny philosophy. By Barry Davis

Last week, Eva Kor passed away at the age of 85. The name may not be instantly recognizable to some, but she was a remarkable person who must have been a highly emotionally robust individual. Kor, who was born in Transylvania, Romania, was on an annual trip to the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, a place she first fatefully encountered in 1944, when she was 10 years old. Crucially, she was a twin, and although her parents and two other siblings perished, she and her twin sister, Miriam, somehow managed to survive being subjected to life-threatening experiments by Dr. Josef Mengele, "The Angel of Death."
"Forgive your worst enemies," Kor said in a video interview recorded during her last visit to the Auschwitz Museum, just a few days before she died. "The moment I forgave the Nazis, I felt free from Auschwitz and from all the tragedy that had occurred to me," she added. Kor did not just sit about dispensing goodwill to those in her vicinity. She was very active in spreading her positive message across the globe. That included founding the Candles Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute, Indiana, where she moved from Israel after serving in the IDF for eight years.

A YOUNG haredi couple learns about one of the three non-Jewish survivors honored in the new exhibition. (Credit: HUFTON + CROW)
 Kor's incredibly healthy outlook on life, despite her unimaginably horrific childhood experiences and the loss of her family, also resonates in the Through the Lens of Faith artistic installation which opened near the entrance to Auschwitz on July 1.
 The exhibition will remain in situ until October 31, 2020 – the year that marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the camp. The installation was ceremonially launched on July 1 in the presence of large contingents from Poland, Israel, the States and Europe, including Chief Rabbi of the Ukraine Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich; Rabbi Sholom Friedmann, who serves as CEO of the Amud Aish Memorial Museum in New York; and 91-year-old Avraham Zelcer. The work was designed and compiled by internationally renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, and photographer Caryl Englander, and by curator Dr. Henri Lustiger Thaler of Amud Aish. It comprises portraits of 21 survivors of Auschwitz, including that of Zelcer, taking in 18 Jews, 2 Polish Catholics – 102-year-old Helen Dunicz-Niwinska and 96-year-old Zofia Posmysz, and one German Sinti Free Christian called Peter Höllenreiner.
 Through the Lens of Faith is well-named. The title references the religious ethos the sisters took with them as they entered the gates of Auschwitz and passed under the infamous wording Arbeit Macht Frei – "Work sets you free." As they state in the text that goes with Englander's photographs, in one way or another, they came through the hell of their interment with their faith unshaken. That is, all except Zelcer, who was born in Czechoslovakia and today has 24 descendants. His commentary concludes with the words: "It took me a year after liberation to return to my faith."

America Keeps on Truckin'


The trucking industry has bounced back from its decline during the recession and the number of truck drivers is at an all-time high. In 2016, the number of employer and self-employed (nonemployer) trucking businesses reached 711,000, surpassing the pre-recession high.
Among younger truckers under age 35, more of them are women, Hispanic and more educated than their older counterparts age 55 and older.
More than 3.5 million people work as truck drivers, an occupation dominated by men who hold more than 90% of truck driving jobs. Driving large tractor-trailers or delivery trucks is one of the largest occupations in the United States.
At least one in 10 truckers are veterans, double the rate of workers in general. Even accounting for its large proportion of men and older workers, truckers still outpace other occupations as a destination for veterans.
Truckers are also more likely to have a disability than other workers. Even looking at just the older workforce, truckers are more likely than other workers age 55 and older to have a disability.
More than ever, truckers and the trucking industry move goods across the country and within our towns and neighborhoods. As the trend towards e-commerce continues, the trucking industry and its workers will continue to provide a critical infrastructure for our nation.

See you tomorrow

Love Yehuda Lave

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

PO Box 7335, Rehavia Jerusalem 9107202


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