Blogs

Could the Jews Have Escaped?

I’ve always wondered if the Jews could have escaped from the Nazis. I think a lot of people would ask this same question. Several of our scholars have touched on the answer, and then I found a resource here in Jerusalem that gave more ways to answer it. Here are some ways the Jews DID try to escape and what happened. Remember, it’s a complicated question and I don’t pretend to have all the answers here. There’s a related question that I’ll answer in a later blog, “Did the Jews resist?” Yes, there were periods early during Hitler’s regime when it was possible for some to escape. It was easier...

Testimony of Judith, a Holocaust Survivor

Today, July 20, our institute group spent a couple hours with four Holocaust survivors. First, they shared just a bit of their experiences during the Holocaust. Then, each one of us could choose one of them to speak with more personally, which meant that each one of the survivors talked to nine or 10 of us and answered individual questions. I’d like to tell the story of one of them in this blog entry. Holocaust survivor Judith shares her story. Judith was born in Venice, Italy, in 1939, an only child. She and her parents and grandmother lived happily for five years. Then her father...

Where Was God in the Holocaust?

The Learning Center here at Yad Vashem is a darkened room with a circle of about 20 computers and a pair of headphones each in a kind of carrel. Inside the circle of carrels, invisible from the computer desks, is a circle of benches and a large screen that continually shows 17 FAQs about the Holocaust. Here are some of the questions: Why were Jews specifically targeted by the Nazis? Why didn’t the Jews try to escape? Where was God in the Holocaust? How have our concepts of good and evil changed since this event? The educational team here found scholars and survivors who would answer one or...

Testimony by a Friend of Anne Frank

One of our most touching sessions so far has been hearing from a Holocaust survivor who was a close friend of Anne Frank and today lives in Israel. Hanna’s father had held a very high position in the German government as an economist, but when Hitler dissolved the bureaucracy, Hanna’s father moved his family first to England and then, unfortunately, to Holland. At first, they lived a comfortable life there. Hanna and Anne met in kindergarten, both coming from German-speaking families. They were friends from then on. Anne was very creative and lively and liked. Hanna Pick survived Bergen-...

The Righteous Among the Nations

Our institute group had the privilege to attend a two-part ceremony honoring Stefan and Maria Magenheim as Righteous Among the Nations. Here’s their story. Stephen Lauden lights the flame in the Hall of Remembrance. In March 1943, the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto knew that they were going to be transported out. So the parents of a 5-year-old boy named Wlodzio sent messages to some Catholic friends to please take and raise their son. All refused in fear except an older childless Catholic couple, the Magenheims. The child was smuggled into their home, where he was loved dearly. Uncle Stefan read...

Two Symbols: Dome of the Rock, the Menorah

When people see the skyline of Jerusalem, what stands out is a gold dome among the cream-colored buildings and walls. (By the way, that dome today is covered by 24-carat gold donated by Saudi Arabia.) Why is it so important? And why is it holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims? The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is a holy site for both Jews and Muslims. First, the dome is not important but the huge rock beneath it is. Jews believe this rock is where God created the world. Secondly, it is the place Abraham took Isaac and almost sacrificed him until the angel told him to stop. Thirdly, because of...

Touring the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum

Today our group spent the morning in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. We began our tour looking at photos of Jews in the 1920s showing rich thriving communities. Our walk continued through a series of rooms documenting the late 1930s when Hitler began attacking Jewish families and businesses. Then, the ghettos. We saw the actual artifacts of families and individuals. We also saw actual cobblestones and railway tracks from Warsaw. Next were the pictures and stories of the trains transporting thousands a day to the death camps, along with a replica of one of the camps. The last room was a...

Liturgy at Ninth Century Christian Church

On Sunday, the Catholics in our group celebrated liturgy with Benedictine monks and nuns in Abu Goth. They sang a Gregorian chant that was out of this world! The church was built by crusaders in the ninth century. About the 11th century, Greek Orthodox painted frescoes of Christ, Mary and the saints on the walls. When the Muslims took over the region, they scratched off the faces of the frescoes because Muslims consider it idolatry to make images of holy people. They then plastered over the frescoes. Only in 2000, when the church was renovated, these frescoes were uncovered. The "Faceless...

A City of Many Faiths and Cultures

I arrived in Israel on Thursday, and on Friday a British woman in our program took me to Christ Church, the first Protestant church in Jerusalem, consecrated in 1849. The Angelical missionary society wanted to invite Jews to discover Jesus. The sanctuary holds a huge wooden plaque with the Ten Commandments and, on each side, the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed in Hebrew. The whole thing looks like the Ark of the Covenant that holds the Torah scrolls in a synagogue. It's an active community today celebrating a sabbath service in Hebrew that honors Jesus. On Saturday evening, after the...

Saying Farewell to a Land of Contrasts

Monday, June 20 We said a sad farewell to the Sisters of Notre Dame on Thursday evening. Donovan and Tom presented the Sr. Mary Agnes Bosche Award to Sr. Sandhya. All of the Sisters gathered in front of a Mary statue located in the garden in front of the entrance. I spoke about the history of Sr. Bosche, her determination and her compassion, and at the end sang the hymn “Now the Day is Over.” We gathered for dinner, where I sang, “God Be With Us ‘till We Meet Again.” The Sisters said a prayer and we all retired for the evening, except we then went to the Windsor Hotel for one last night in...

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