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Israeli aid effort helps Haitians — and Israel’s image                     

Haiti hits home for some, others spearhead fund-raising

As the world watched the catastrophe unfolding in Haiti, the tragic events hit home at the Jewish Home at Rockleigh, where some distraught members of the staff, originally from that earthquake-ravaged nation, have been trying to track down relatives and friends there. JHR’s Rabbi Simon Feld led a service in the chapel last Thursday and asked attendees to pray for survivors and loved ones. “Our hearts go out to those who are missing and injured,” he said. He also recited a prayer for those who had died as a result of the earthquake.

Snerte Leger, a Haitian-born member of JHR’s kitchen staff, also spoke to the group, saying, “Everyone here knows what is going on in Haiti. We need to help the Haitian people.”

A second service was held the following day for those who were unable to attend the first.

Chuck Berkowitz, JHR’s executive vice president, noted that its residents had contributed to a fund established by the Jewish Home Foundation to aid victims and their families, as had members of the staff and the board of directors. A meeting was held after the service to discuss where to direct the funds — a little over $4,000 as of Tuesday, according to Melanie Cohen, JHR’s vice president of development and public relations.

“A significant number of staff members are native Haitians,” she noted, “and we felt it was very important to show our support in their time of need.” The employees and residents will decide where to send the donations.

As of Wednesday, UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey had accumulated pledges and donations through its Website, http://www.ujannj.org/haiti, and by mail, amounting to more than $56,000, not counting several large gifts, one of $25,000. Money continues to come in, said Alan Scharfstein, the federation’s president, and100 percent of the donations will go to the American Joint Distribution Committee, except for the $25,000 supplementary gift that has been designated for Partners in Health, which is also sending aid to Haiti.

Scharstein said, “It’s important for the world to see how much Jews care, not only about Jews but about all of those in need. And I think it’s also heart-warming to see the generosity of our community.”

Jewish Artists for Haiti will stage a benefit concert Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, 30 W. 68th St., in Manhattan. The Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring and the New Yiddish Repertory Theater are the lead sponsors of the three-hour concert, which will feature, among others, Frank London and The Klezmer Brass AllStars, Greg Wall, Soulfarm, Neshama Carlebach and The Green Pastures Baptist Choir, Basya Schaechter and Pharoah’s Daughter, Alicia Svigals, Judith Sloan (the evening’s emcee), Gary Lucas, Maracatu New York, Cantor Dan Singer, and others with styles ranging from klezmer to Jewish hip hop.

Zalmen Mlotek of Teaneck, artistic director of the NationalYiddish Theater/Folksbiene, will be among the performers.

Doors open at 6:30 pm.

Admission is a minimum donation of $18. All proceeds will go directly to the American Jewish World Service Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund.

For more information, call Workmen’s Circle at (212) 889-6800, ext. 212, or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Among the many funds to aid the earthquake victims is the MDA Emergency Disaster Fund of American Friends of Magen David Adom, Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross.

Jake Hirsch of New City, N.Y., a junior at Solomon Schechter School of Westchester in Harts-dale, N.Y., became interested in Haiti long before last week’s earthquake. He started the school’s Hope for Haiti Club this year after researching a term paper about the country for his history class.

Jake organized an art sale at the school on Jan. 31 with the Vassar-Haiti Project, a volunteer organization that buys and imports Haitian art, with the proceeds sustaining the education, medical program, and other essentials of a village in northern Haiti that was not affected by the earthquake. Proceeds from the art sale will be given to the project as well as for earthquake relief.

The school has put Jake in charge of all Haiti-related relief efforts. Those not attending the sale can send checks made out to the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester (with Haitian relief in the memo), 555 West Hartsdale Ave., Hartsdale, NY 10530; 100 percent of the donations will be sent to Haiti. For information, call (914) 948-8333.

 
 

Area to mark Yom HaShoah

Saturday night begins the 27th day of Nissan, the Hebrew date chosen by the Israeli Knesset as Yom HaShoah, Holocaust memorial day. For more than 20 years, one of the most vivid commemorations has been the March of the Living, in which thousands of young Jews walk the three kilometers from the Auschwitz concentration camp to the gas chambers at Birkenau.

This year, for the first time, the memorial ceremony held at Birkenau following the march will be broadcast by Jewish Life Television, and the broadcast will be the centerpiece of the annual commemorations of the UJA Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Frisch School in Paramus.

The broadcast will feature an addresses from Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and Holocaust survivor Irving Roth, director of the Holocaust Resource Center at Temple Judea in Manhasset, N.Y., who founded the Adopt a Survivor program. There will also be music from singer Dovid (Dudu) Fisher and the chief cantor of Tel Aviv, who will chant the El Maleh memorial prayer.

The Paramus event is one of dozens of community Yom HaShoah commemorations around the country that will be tuning in to the March of the Living broadcast.

In addition to the broadcast, the Paramus ceremony will feature a procession of 68 children holding candles, marking the 68th year since the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and a commemoration for the Jews of Europe held in Paterson in 1943. That commemoration became an annual event and was the precursor of the UJA Federation commemoration, making this the oldest continuous Holocaust program in the United States, according to Wally Greene, spokesman for the UJA Federation Holocaust Memorial Committee.

On Sunday evening, a recording of Hoenlein’s remarks will be played at another community Yom HaShoah event, at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, at 7 p.m.

The keynote speaker at the JCC event will be Eva Lux Braun, who survived Auschwitz and lives in Queens. She will share her first-hand experience about what it was like for her and her loved ones to suffer in Auschwitz, how they coped with things that should never occur in everyday life, and the “small miracles connected to faith, hope, and survival.”

There will be a candlelighting ceremony by survivors and their families.

The Abe Oster Holocaust Remembrance Award will be presented to the winner of a contest in which high school students were asked to write a poem that conveys lessons learned from studying the Holocaust.

The Yeshivat Noam Choir, students of the JCC Thurnauer School of Music, and Abraham Barzelay will provide music.

Also on Sunday night, at 8 p.m., five Englewood synagogues will hold a community Yom HaShoah event at Cong. Ahavath Torah, featuring a video presentation, “Triumph of the Spirit,” the story of Esther Jungreis and her family during and after the Holocaust.

“The message of the film is that even though the intent was to eradicate the Jewish people, we survived and came through,” said Richard Friend, chairman of the committee that organizes the event.

“It’s a very moving film,” he said.

In Teaneck, the annual Holocaust remembrance will take place 7:30 p.m Monday night at Teaneck High School featuring Fanya Gottesfeld Heller. Heller is the author of “Love in a World of Sorrow: A Teenage Girl’s Holocaust Memoirs,” which was made into the documentary film “Teenage Witness: The Fanya Heller Story.”

There will be a musical performance by Zalmen Mlotek.

 
 
 
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