The Jewish Observer,

Los Angeles

SERVING THE LOS ANGELES METROPOLITAN                            

           23-29 Kislev, 5778                                                     Dec. 11-17, 2017 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES  --  603rd Web Ed.


The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will present to Vera and Paul Guerin, its National Leadership Award at the “2018 Los Angeles Dinner: What You Do Matters” event on Thursday, March 1, 2018, for their contributions to preserving Holocaust history.

The museum will also honor Vera Guerin’s late parents, Lilly and Nathan Shapell, who were founding members of the Museum; Nathan Shapell was also appointed by President George H.W. Bush and reappointed twice by President Bill Clinton to the Museum’s governing council.

More than 1,000 guests are expected to attend the dinner, which will be held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. Dinner co-chairs are Hella and Chuck Hershson and Haim and Cheryl Saban.

“We are grateful to the Museum for this incredible recognition,” Vera Guerin said. “To be able to carry forth a legacy at the Museum that was started by my parents nearly 25 years ago is unimaginable. We share this honor with our kids and grandchildren so that they too, will feel a sense of urgency in continuing the work of their grandparents and that of the Museum in preserving the history and lessons of the Holocaust.”

The Museum's National Leadership Awards are presented to an outstanding individual(s), foundation, or corporation in recognition of their exceptional contribution to benefit the community in ways that advance the values and mission of the Museum.

“The work by Vera and Paul Guerin in the community is beyond reproach,” said Steven Klappholz, the Museum’s director of the Western Regional Office. “It’s an honor for the Museum to recognize them with this award, but even more astounding is the simultaneous recognition for Vera’s parents, Lilly and Nathan Shapell, that began 25 years ago. Their families have been at the forefront of Holocaust education and supporters of the Museum since its inception and have served as an inspiration to all of us.”

The 2018 Los Angeles dinner will mark the Museum’s 25th anniversary by inspiring people to reflect on Holocaust history and 'Never Stop Asking Why.' As Museum Founding Chairman Elie Wiesel said, "The Museum is not meant to be an answer. It's meant to be a question." In the short time since its founding, the Museum has grown from a major national institution into a respected global enterprise leading the cause of Holocaust remembrance and education. During Days of Remembrance on April 8-9, the Museum will honor all Holocaust survivors with its highest recognition, the Elie Wiesel Award, and in May launch its new exhibition and initiative on Americans and the Nazi Threat— the latest example of its 25-year legacy of exploring the complex questions Holocaust history raises to stimulate people to think about themselves and the society they live in.

In the 24 years since it opened, the Museum has educated and inspired more than 41 million visitors, including more than 10 million children and nearly 100 heads of state. A permanent reminder on the National Mall in Washington of what can occur when the world fails to take action, the Museum inspires citizens and leaders alike to confront hate and indifference, end genocide and promote human dignity.

The Museum’s work is having a significant impact – here in Southern California and the world. Many school teachers from Southern California and throughout the state – and thousands more from all 50 states – are trained each year in how to make the Holocaust relevant and meaningful to young people. The Museum’s leadership programs are inspiring California judges, police and military officers to heed the lessons of the Holocaust and understand their roles as safeguards of democracy. The Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide is dedicated to stimulating timely global action to prevent genocide and catalyze an international response when it occurs.

The “2018 Los Angeles Dinner: What You Do Matters” is open to the public, but advance registration is required. Multi-level sponsorship opportunities are available. Individual tickets are $500. Groups and individuals interested must register by February 23. Tribute page ads in the Commemorative Tribute Book are being accepted now through February 6.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum presents “2018 Los Angeles Dinner: What You Do Matters” on Thursday, March 1, with a reception at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, 9876 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills.

A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors.

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JERUSALEM -- More than 70 years after World War II ended, 45 Holocaust survivors in Israel finally got a chance to celebrate their bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies for the first time Monday morning, at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site.

The survivors reached bar or bat mitzvah age during the war or immediately afterwards, but because of their circumstances never got to participate in the ceremony marking a Jewish boy’s or girl’s entrance to adulthood. Alexander Buchnik, one of the participants in today’s event, said: “All my life, I felt that I missed it so much. I am so excited and happy.”

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, Israel’s Office for Social Equality, and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) sponsored the moving ceremony. Eighteen of the survivors also receive financial assistance throughout the year from The Fellowship.

The survivors and their families joined Monday’s event, which included a tour of the tunnels under the Western Wall. The men put on tefillin (the traditional leather straps men wear during prayer) and read from the Torah, while the women participated in another ceremony at the Western Wall Tunnels Hall. The group then dined with the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz.

All now elderly, many of the survivors said they’ve long felt that because they’d never had a bar or bat mitzvah, something was missing from their Jewish identities. Aspir Ravicher was 11 when the war began. Her family fled from their homes in Ukraine to Russia. Throughout the war, they lived on the run, focused solely on the need to survive each day.

“We ran away with nothing but the clothes we had on us. We had nothing, we were hungry all the time, we lived in a crowded place – I remember that it was mostly cold and I was very hungry,” Ravicher recalled. A bat mitzvah “was not something we could have done.”

Hiding their Jewish identity to survive was necessary not only during the war but also during communist rule in the years that followed. Semyon Liebman was a young boy in St. Petersburg when the war broke out. Together with his sister and mother, throughout the war years they were forced to leave their homes and wander. After the war, the family returned to live in the St. Petersburg area.

“When we came back, it was forbidden to talk about Judaism or anything about the bar mitzvah, so we did not talk about it at all,” he said. “I feel like a child today.”

Alexander Buchnik reached bar mitzvah age immediately upon the liberation of Moscow from the Nazis. When the war ended, the family returned to the city. “But we could not celebrate my bar mitzvah,” he said. His mother “was busy surviving and keeping us alive―we could not think about it at all.” In 1994, Buchnik immigrated to Israel with his family and said that he had long been waiting for the moment when he would celebrate his bar mitzvah. “I thought about it during the course of my life, and all my life I felt that I missed it so much.”

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation said that the ceremony was among the high points of the Western Wall’s history.

“Light and darkness are mixed here, but hope is absolute, and there is concrete evidence of the eternity of the Jewish people,” the foundation said in a statement. “The event leaves its mark on the participants and symbolizes revenge against the Nazi enemy in the form of a return to the Jewish tradition and proof that it is never too late.”

The Fellowship’s founder and president, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, said: “I find it difficult to think of anything more inspiring than elderly Holocaust survivors who receive a late bar and bat mitzvah celebration in the holiest place for the Jewish people, after surviving the terror of the Nazis and having their childhood stolen from them.

The Fellowship supports 20,000 Holocaust survivors annually throughout Israel, including 18 of those who participated in today’s event. The Fellowship provides low-income survivors with food, dental care, emergency medical services, and companionship care for the lonely.

“These survivors are heroes,” Eckstein said of today’s group. “I am so grateful to be part of this momentous experience for them. We help them throughout the year, and I welcome the opportunity to be part of this exciting event.”



WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Egyptian Ambassador  to the United States Yasser Reda hosted a dinner on Capitol Hill commemorating the 40th anniversary of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's visit to Jerusalem and his speech to the Israeli Knesset which laid the foundation between Egypt and Israel. Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer delivered remarks where he referenced the other Arab diplomats in attendance who have yet to recognize Israel but may be inspired by Sadat.

Other speakers and participants included Senior Advisor to the President of the United States - Jared Kushner, former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt David Welch, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Habib Powell and a keynote address from the Former First Lady of the Arab Republic of Egypt, President Sadat's widow Mrs. Jehan Sadat who referenced the legislation introduced in Congress by Rep. Chris Stewart and Rep. Grace Meng to award President Sadat with the Congressional Gold Medal to honor the aforementioned anniversary and the upcoming centennial of Sadat's birth in 2018.  

The Congressional Gold Medal effort is being coordinated by a committee, headed by Ezra Friedlander, CEO of The Friedlander Group whose members, including U.S. Chair Isaac Dabah and International Chair Shafik Gabr, who introduced Mrs. Sadat as the "Woman of Egypt",  participated in a private meeting with the former First Lady of Egypt Mrs. Jehan Sadat, widow of the late President Sadat prior to the reception.

Morton A. Klein - National President of the Zionist Organization of America, Ambassador H. Russell Taub, Ezra Friedlander.


A special welcoming and reunion ceremony was recently held at Ben-Gurion Airport Terminal 1 (ceremony) and Terminal 3 (reunion) for members of the Bnei Menashe community of India, a Lost Tribe of Israel.

Aryeh Deri, Minister of the Interior, and Yitzhak Cohen, Deputy Minister of Finance, along with Shavei Israel Founder and Chairman Michael Freund, will greet the arrivals. Following the ceremony, there was an emotional reunion where family members currently in Israel reunited with the arriving olim.  The welcome ceremony included Aryeh Deri, minister of the interior, and Yitzhak Cohen, deputy minister of finance.

The 162 members of the the Bnei Menashe want to reconnect with their Jewish roots in the Jewish homeland. Shavei Israel has made this dream possible for over 1,700 Bnei Menashe over the last 15 years and plans to bring more members of the community to Israel. Currently there are 7,000 Bnei Menashe awaiting their return to the Jewish homeland.

Community members claim descent from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago. Their ancestors wandered through Central Asia and the Far East for centuries, before settling in what is now northeastern India, along the border with Burma and Bangladesh. Throughout their sojourn in exile, the Bnei Menashe continued to practice Judaism just as their ancestors did, including observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals and following the laws of family purity. And they continued to nourish the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.

Shavei Israel is a nonprofit organization founded by Michael Freund, who immigrated to Israel from the United States with the aim of strengthening the ties between the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the descendants of Jews around the world. The organization is currently active in more than a dozen countries and provides assistance to a variety of communities such as the Bnei Menashe of India, the Bnei Anousim (referred to by the derogatory term “Marranos” by historians) in Spain, Portugal and South America, the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, the Jewish community of Kaifeng in China, descendants of Jews living in Poland, and other.