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Program honors little-known hero of Holocaust

 
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The Holocaust Resource Center of Greater Clifton-Passaic will hold its annual Yom HaShoah observance on April 11 at the Jewish Community Center, 199 Scoles Ave., in Clifton. The program will include a special tribute to a former New York University dean responsible for saving the lives of Jewish doctors and scientists.

Physicist Albert Einstein, who left Germany in 1933, had been trying, in cooperation with Jewish organizations, to get Jews out of Germany and Austria and into the United States. He asked leaders of scientific and academic institutions to hire Jewish professionals for teaching positions, which would allow them to get visas quickly, thus getting around the waiting periods imposed by the State Department.

One of the leaders who responded to Einstein’s plea and helped him to persuade others to do likewise was Dr. Currier McEwen, the dean of NYU Medical School. As a result of McEwen’s efforts, NYU made faculty appointments to approximately 20 German and Austrian Jewish physicians and professors. As McEwen told a friend many years later, no one school could afford to keep all the Jewish scientists and physicians on its faculty permanently, but NYU gave them two-year appointments to satisfy the State Department and get them away from the Nazis quickly. This gave them time to establish a private practice here or get themselves onto other faculties.

McEwen’s hobby was horticulture. He hybridized over 160 new types of irises and 43 new types of daylilies. Some of his irises are grown at the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens in Upper Montclair. At the Yom HaShoah observance, the Holocaust Resource Center and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens will honor McEwen for his humanitarian efforts. Between 6 and 7 p.m., Dr. Robert and Bernice Moskowitz will host a reception for McEwen’s family, members of the Presby Memorial Gardens, and faculty and alumni of NYU Medical School. A video about his life will be shown. Members of the public may also attend this reception, but reservations are required. For information, call (973) 777-7031, ext. 147 and ask for Nancy or (973) 779-2980 and ask for Maria.

The Holocaust Memorial Observance will take place in the JCC auditorium from 7 to 8 p.m. It will be presided over by Stuart Rabner, chairman of the Holocaust Resource Center, and Max Birnbaum, chairman of the Holocaust Memorial Observance Committee. Dr. Anthony Grieco, associate dean of the NYU Medical School, will speak about McEwen and Prof. Fred Einstein, a grand-nephew of Albert Einstein, will read a letter from his great-uncle to McEwen. The Presby Gardens will plant irises developed by McEwen in the raised planters in the circular front driveway of the JCC as a memorial to him, and a presentation will be made to his family.

The keynote speaker will be Ernest Michel, a Holocaust survivor who, until his retirement in 1989, was executive vice president and CEO of UJA-Federation of New York. Michel spent five and a half years in Auschwitz and several other Nazi concentration camps. He later covered the Nuremburg war crimes trials as a correspondent for a German news agency. Michel was also the initiator and chairman of the World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors in Jerusalem in 1981, which was attended by 6,000 survivors and their families from all over the world.

Other participants in the program will be YBH Hillel School of Passaic, survivors and their children, who will light candles in memory of the 6 million, Cantor Richard Starashevsky of Young Israel of Passaic Park, and Rabbi Dovid Hirsch, a rosh yeshiva at the Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Yeshiva of Yeshiva University and religious leader of Kehilas Bais Yosef in Passaic.

A separate program for children from nursery school age to fifth grade will be held from 7 to 8 p.m.

 
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A rabbi hasn’t walked into the bar ... yet

It’s not every day that a liquor license comes up for sale in Teaneck. (State licensing laws limit the number of licenses in a formula based on a town’s population.)

So when Jonathan Gellis heard that the owner of Vinny O’s in Teaneck was looking to sell the establishment, including the license, after 28 years behind the bar, he realized that only one of the more than 20 kosher restaurants in Teaneck could sell alcohol.

That seemed to be an opportunity.

Mr. Gellis is a stockbroker by day. He’s used to working in a regulated business — and the alcohol business in New Jersey is highly regulated.

Mr. Gellis grew up in Teaneck; his parents moved the family here from Brooklyn in 1975, back when the town had only one kosher restaurant. His four children attend Yeshivat Noam and the Frisch School, and he serves on the board of both institutions. He also is president of Congregation Keter Torah.

 

The converso’s dilemma

Local group goes to New Mexico to learn about crypto-Jews

Imagine that you were raised as a Catholic. Then one day — perhaps as a beloved parent or grandparent lay dying and leaned over to whisper something in your ear — you learned that your family once was Jewish. Your ancestors were converted forcibly some 500 years ago.

For those people all over the world who have had that experience, the next step is not entirely clear. Do they jump in with both feet and vigorously pursue their new Jewish identities, or do they simply go about their business, choosing to do nothing with this new information? These dilemmas, and more, were the subject of a recent Road Scholar program in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The topic — “New Mexico’s Conversos and Crypto-Jews” — continues to fascinate both Jews and non-Jews, as evidenced by the religious identity of the attendees. Among those participating in this month’s session — there are 10 such programs held each year — were five residents from our area, including this author.

 

Paying it forward

Remembering Gabby Reuveni’s generous spirit

Just a glance at the web page created in memory of Gabby Reuveni of Paramus gives some indication of the number of people she touched and — through the ongoing efforts of her family — she continues to touch.

Killed two years ago in Pennsylvania by a driver who swerved onto the shoulder of the road, where she was running, Gabby, who was 20, was “an extremely aware and kind person,” her mother, Jacqueline Reuveni, said. “We’re continuing her legacy.”

The family has undertaken both public and private “acts of kindness,” she said, from endowing scholarships to meeting local families’ medical bills.

According to her father, Michael Reuveni, Gabby — then a student at Washington University in St. Louis and a member of the school’s track team — was a victim of vehicular homicide.

 

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Ari Teman’s laughing matters

Teaneck native’s Rocket Shelter Comedy entertains Israelis under fire

What’s the toughest part of working for the Hamas Propaganda Unit? You need equipment to stage films and you can’t go to B&H Photo.

Teaneck-bred standup comic Ari Teman brought a suitcase of jokes like this one when he flew to Israel late last week to headline a series of comedy shows in regular venues as well as bomb shelters and army bases.

With fellow American standup Danny Cohen and Texan-Israeli comedian Benji Lovitt, Mr. Teman’s Rocket Shelter Comedy (http://RocketShelterComedy.com) shows took place from this week in cities including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Beersheva, and Modi’in. All proceeds are to be donated to the Friends of the IDF Lone Soldier Fund.

When asked how he got the idea for the comedy mission, Mr. Teman — a graduate of the Torah Academy of Bergen County — explained that it resulted from a memo from his attorneys at the Israeli law firm GKH.

 

‘A way to thwart their funding’

On May 18, 2003, Steve Averbach boarded a Jerusalem commuter bus and noticed an Arab man aboard dressed like a haredi Jew. When Mr. Averbach, an Israeli immigrant from West Long Branch, approached, the man detonated his explosives, killing seven people and wounding 20, including Mr. Averbach.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the bombing. Mr. Averbach, left paralyzed from the neck down, was hailed as a hero for scaring the bomber into prematurely detonating his suicide vest and reducing the death toll.

Eleven years later, the Averbach family is taking part in a massive lawsuit against Jordan-based Arab Bank, alleging that the bank facilitated fundraising for Hamas and other terror groups, as well as payments to dead terrorists’ families, and thus bears responsibility for Hamas terrorism. The case is set for an August 11 trial in federal court in Brooklyn.

 

Gary Osen, the man giving victims an opportunity

For attorney Gary Osen of Hackensack’s Osen LLC, the case against Arab Bank is the continuation of a career built on fighting for people who have been cast into the role of victims.

“It’s not who they want to be or how they want to be remembered,” he said. “This case provides them an opportunity to do something, to be proactive, and perhaps change the world just a little bit for the better and maybe salvage something from the circumstances that have been thrust on them.”

Inspired by his father, attorney Max Osen, Mr. Osen began his career in Holocaust restitution. Max Osen came to the United States at age 11, fleeing from Nazi Germany. He returned in 1945 as a U.S. soldier, and after the war he received his law degree and began taking on restitution cases.

 
 
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