The dimly lit social hall at the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus set the tone for the Jan. 26 launch of 70 Days for 70 Years, a worldwide Holocaust memorial program coordinated locally by the Phoenix Community Kollel.
As participants entered the room, they were handed a memorial tribute card, with the name of a victim of the Holocaust, along with their age, birthplace and where they died.
The name on my card is Berl Rosenberg, who was 31 when he died in Auschwitz. The irony that this was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz didn’t escape me. Had he been among the survivors, who knows what his life would have been like, how many children and grandchildren he may have had.
The names on the cards are from Yad Vashem’s Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names. When I went to look up Berl Rosenberg to see if there was more information, there was none. Just his name, along with a note that he was born in 1913, resided in Teresva, Czechoslovakia, and that he was murdered.
“We are commemorating the tragic loss of 6 million souls – men, women and children, ” said Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, president of 70 Days for 70 Years, in a video shown at the beginning of the Monday night program. “The numbers are unimaginable. The danger is that all those victims could become mere statistics.”
The worldwide project aims “to ensure that as many of those victims as possible – each of them who had a story, a family, a life – are remembered,” said Rabbi Andrew Shaw, director of 70 Days for 70 Years, in the video.
Through the 70-day program, participants read an essay of specifically selected Jewish content every day, in memory of a victim. The book of essays is being distributed globally and the essays are on the program’s website.
“Seventy years ago, a third of our people were gathered together and murdered,” Shaw said in the video. “Let’s gather together again, but this time to learn, to learn in the memory of those who died and to learn for our future.”
The Phoenix launch featured local survivor Dr. Alexander B. White, 92, who spoke about his experience during the Holocaust. (He also writes about the experience of being on Schnindler’s list in his autobiography, “Be a Mensch.”)
“Survivors don’t need a day to remember,” White told the standing-room-only audience. “We remember it every day and night.”
But it’s necessary for everybody else to remember the indifference of Germans and even the U.S. to allow Hitler to do what he did, he said. If somebody sees a group of people becoming a victim, one has to stand up. “You have to be a mensch and not forget what could happen if you maintain indifference.”
Bernie Buffone of Berwick, Pennsylvania, stopped by the Jewish News office earlier this week during his visit to Phoenix as part of Kitten Run 2 – a cycling trek across the country to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.
Buffone, 62, set out on his journey on June 30, 2014, a couple of months after retiring from his work as a senior project representative for an engineering firm. He plans to continue riding until Oct. 15 of this year.
Along the way, he encourages people he meets to send a quarter to St. Jude’s – “Everybody has a quarter,” he says. All funds go directly to St. Jude’s. Send to: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis TN 38105. Attn. Kitten Run .
As a former NFL coach and Class of 2001 Hall of Famer, Marv Levy has one of the greatest streaks of all time, taking the Buffalo Bills to the Super Bowl four years in a row. At 89, he works as a motivational speaker, and says he’s honored to be the keynote speaker at the Martin Luther King Jr. Dinner Celebration this coming Wednesday (more details below).
Levy was a college football coach through the civil rights era, before becoming an NFL coach in 1969.
“Even back then, I admired Martin Luther King Jr. so much for what he represented, the lack of, certainly, prejudice, but (also) his style, his manner, his eloquence, how he told the members of the black community (how) he felt they should conduct themselves in order to get the rights they deserve,” Levy says in a phone interview last week from his home in Chicago. “So I’m honored that they asked me now to come in because, I’ll tell you, the three greatest speeches I heard of all time were the Gettysburg Address, Winston Churchill’s ‘Finest Hour’ and Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream.’ I was an English and a history major, so I was very interested in great speeches and things of that nature.”
Of his own life, he says, “I never really experienced what I felt was a lot of prejudice,” even though he was growing up at a time when the stereotype was that Jews weren’t good at sports. He played three varsity sports in college: football, basketball and track. Accepted into Harvard Law, Levy decided to become a football coach instead.
As coach of the Buffalo Bills, he says that he and the Bills’ then-general manager, Bill Polian, “agreed we’d only bring aboard guys of great character on our team and, boy, did that resonate through so many different things” – including race relations on the team during his tenure (1986-1997).
“I don’t know what percentage (of players on the team) might have been white or might have been black, to tell you the truth, but there were great relations on our team, and acceptance,” he says. “I’ll tell you, we had a guy, a center on our team named Kent Hall, who was a great player and everything. The kid came from rural Mississippi – man, I could hardly understand him, he talked with such a down South, redneck accent. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone who was better for race relationships than this guy.”
As for bringing the Bills to the Super Bowl four years in a row and never winning one of them?
“Sure, we would love to have won them, but I can’t walk around and stay bitter,” he says. “If you honor the game, and play right, and give it your best, and honor your opponent, regardless of the score, you never lose.”
That sounds like a very good philosophy.
What: Scottsdale’s 21st annual Martin Luther King Jr. Living the Dream celebration, including honors for the Silverman family, owners of Chaparral Suites, who have been named 2015 Diversity Champions by Community Celebrating Diversity, a nonprofit group. Frances Ann Burruel, a retired educator who has dedicated her life to addressing civil rights issues, will also be honored at the event.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 14; 5:30 p.m., registration begins; 6 p.m., dinner and program
Where: Chaparral Suites, 5011 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
Tickets: $60, visit scottsdaleMLK.com or call 480-312-3030
Although Paula Segal Shulak moved permanently to Arizona in 2006, she left an indelible mark on the Southeast Valley’s theater community and on Jewish communities there and in Prescott, before her death on Dec. 22, 2014, at age 78.
I was privileged to work with her on two major theatrical productions: a couple of Purim spiels at Temple Emanuel of Tempe. OK, maybe they weren’t so major, but she approached the job of putting on those little productions with the same vitality and dedication that she brought to bear on much more serious work. She directed the premiere of the late Irv Fellner’s “The Eighth Stage” at Emanuel in 2007. That work focused on a man reflecting on life and attempting to reconcile with his estranged daughter as he approached his 70th birthday, a far cry from the broad parody of the Purim productions.
More recently, she played a key role in the development of “Say Yes to Life,” a play about two Holocaust survivors who search for meaning and a new life in the United States. Shulak brought together the playwright, Virginia Fleishans, with survivor Kurt Bronner, and Fleishans wrote the play loosely based on Bronner’s story. Shulak directed the first staged reading of the play at the first official social event of Generations After, a group for children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, last January, and subsequent performances at the Prescott Library and Temple B’rith Shalom last April in Prescott.
She also directed plays locally for community theater groups such as Mesa Encore Theatre and Temple Little Theatre.
She and her husband, Carl (who acted in many of her productions), discovered the Valley in retirement, becoming snowbirds in 2003 and moving here for good in 2006, when she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. She wanted to live near the Mayo Clinic, which treated her for the deadly disease. They were active members of Temple Emanuel for years and moved to Dewey, up near Prescott, permanently in 2013.
As Rabbi Susan Schanerman said in a eulogy she delivered at a memorial service on Friday: “Paula was an actor, a director, a mentor. No stage was too large or too small for her theatrical interests. … On top of her directing and acting, Paula served on temple boards, and on theater boards. She taught religious school, she reviewed local plays, she just had so much energy and drive.”
For some of us, she embodied the answer to the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Someone with her energy, of course. She will be missed. May her memory be a blessing.
Jewish News posted just over 3,000 stories on its website in 2014. Here’s a countdown of the top 10 stories that received the most page views in 2014.
10. Home page for Best of Jewish Phoenix 2014: This downloadable special edition of Jewish News features the best the Valley has to offer, from businesses and programs, as well as profiles on 10 young leaders.
9. List of Valley congregations: Our list of area congregations in the annual community directory, which is updated online throughout the year, is apparently a popular resource.
8. 3 yeshiva students missing, feared kidnapped outside Jerusalem: As news broke of the tragic story from Israel, American Jewry join their Israeli brethren in prayer and solidarity.
7. Facebook helps bring teen home: Social media plays a critical role in the return of a missing teen to his family.
6. Israelis growing hungry for vegan diet: Israel has the highest per capita vegan population of anywhere in the world, according to vegan activists.
5. Met cancels broadcast of ‘Death of Klinghoffer’: The Metropolitan Opera cancels its live transmission of “The Death of Klinghoffer” as protestors accuse the opera of being anti-Semitic.
4. Observing a vegan Passover: Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, executive director of Valley Beit Midrash, writes about the reasons he and his wife observe a vegan lifestyle and how this affects their Passover observance.
3. Is lunar eclipse at Sukkot an ominous sign?: Edmon J. Rodman, a JTA columnist in Los Angeles, speaks to a NASA research astrophysicist about having a blood moon on both Passover and Sukkot and what that could mean.
2. Pastor ‘scams’ Jewish clerics for film: A Tempe pastor uses subterfuge on Jewish clerics to have them appear in an anti-Jewish documentary film.
1. What I learned from visiting the new Mormon temple: This piece, written by Rabbi Jeremy Schneider of Temple Kol Ami, was likely the most-read story ever on our site, as we found references to it on numerous Mormon websites around the world. In the first week alone, it received more than 68,000 page views. Maybe we should write more about the Mormon community?
In cased you missed them, here’s a countdown of the blog posts that received the most hits on the Jewish News blog in 2015:
5. Hockey Shtick Night’s big stars – besides the Coyotes, that is: This post included an interview with Yehudie and the Gefilte Fish, who performed before last month’s Arizona Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators game at Hockey Shtick Night.
4. A visit to the Mormon temple in Gilbert: The Jewish News editorial staff takes a trip to Gilbert to take a public tour of a new Church of Latter-Day Saints temple before it is dedicated.
3. Looking for kosher challah?: After the closing of Karsh’s Bakery, this post offers other options for kosher challah.
2. Why the world should care about Israel: In the midst of the Gaza conflict, this post serves as a reminder of the positive impact Israel has had on the world.
1. Delta Flight 468: On the plane that turned around: After a rocket landed near Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport, one Valley resident was on the plane that had to turn around mid-flight.