Oral histories a vital resource
I want to wish Joy Braunstein well as she takes on the task to continue the work of the Holocaust Center to educate teachers, students and the public about the history, literature and lessons of the Holocaust.
I applaud her impulse to preserve and use the first person accounts of dwindling numbers of survivors. The subject will always remain compelling and there are already many useful materials including a huge cache of oral histories at the Holocaust Center. The devoted years of work by the late Jack Gordon and many volunteers who began gathering oral histories of our Pittsburgh survivors and liberators was possible because of the extremely generous time and devotion of Nate Shearer and his assistant Jack, who gave hours and hours of time and dedication to taping these personal accounts. Nate contributed the effort and expense of creating videos and then transforming them to DVDs. Recently, Iris Sampson added to the collection with her taping of survivors.
Over the years since Barbara Burstin first interviewed survivors in the 1980s, through the former directors and chairs, much material was collected and can be used to present today to teachers and students. Dan and Ken Love, local filmmakers, demonstrated how classroom- usable materials can be created when they produced the powerful film, “Through the Eyes of Resistance: the stories of Holocaust survivors Moshe and Malka Baran.”
Funds from many, many families and area foundations were contributed since 1980 when the center was established to make books, films, exhibitions, programs, classroom trunks and teacher training possible.
It is true that as the eyewitnesses can no longer present their experiences that the challenge is to find another way to get their stories told. As Ms. Braunstein becomes familiar with the existing resources, I am sure she will continue the meaningful work of the Holocaust Center.
Linda F. Hurwitz
(The author directed the Holocaust Center from 1988 to 2005.)
Imam thanks community
On behalf of the Muslim community here in Pittsburgh, I just wanted to thank Deborah Fidel and the PAJC for taking the time and effort to organize last week’s event at Rodef Shalom, “Sharia, Halacha and Canon Law: Threat or Threatened?”
In a time of fear mongering, when the term “Sharia law” is often misused and assigned a negative connotation by the media, it was a pleasure to see that people walked away from last night’s event feeling that Sharia is not all that different from Halacha or Canon Law in the sense that all three of our religious traditions have legal codes that interact with civil law at times in their own ways.
It was touching to see Rabbi Scott Aaron, Father Lawrence DiNardo and others defend Sharia and the American Muslim community in general, and demonstrate that Sharia is not a threat to the United States government or legal system.
The atmosphere of the night was one of respect and mutual understanding among Jews, Christians and Muslims, and I feel grateful to have been able to attend.
(The author is imam of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh.)
Ben-David’s criticism tempered
I have the pleasure to serve on the Community Relations Council of the federation, and I attended the Dec. 15 presentation on the Israeli education system by Dan Ben-David.
Ben-David is a very personable and bright guy who holds a Ph.D. in economics. His 90-minute PowerPoint presentation consisted mostly of graphs and charts, and his conclusions about the system “being broken and unable to educate a workforce” were almost entirely drawn from statistics. It was very shocking to many in attendance, and maybe to your readers as well, who take great pride in Israeli ingenuity and technology.
Charts and graphs don’t tell a whole story; there are many things in an economy and society that can influence them. Ben-David pointed out a couple times where Russian immigration and the Second Intifada influenced results. But there are other factors, such as the Israeli parliamentarian system, coalition governments, political parties fighting for their own schools and a society living in fear of attack, just to name a few, which influence the outcomes, but can’t be seen on a graph.
Does the Israeli education system need to be improved? Absolutely, but who are we to be so critical considering the quality of our own system? Just keep in mind, when Israel was 20 years old, they were probably teaching students to split atoms. And when the United States was 20 years old, our students were being taught to split logs.
Stuart V. Pavilack
(The author is executive director of the Zionist Organization of America
‘Spark’ of Mitzvah Day
How wonderful it was that our Jewish community consistently rallies to assist others on Christmas Day.
We are indeed fortunate to have so many caring and compassionate people, children, parents and grandparents, who volunteered their time, setting amazing examples. Kudos to the Jewish Federation for once again spearheading this extraordinary project.
As the recipients of some of these kind individuals’ attention, the residents of Weinberg Village and Charles Morris had a very special afternoon. The ruach and camaraderie speak volumes about who we are as a people.
I hope that the spark of Mitzvah Day will continue to light our path and that volunteers will keep on performing their magic, not just on Dec. 25, but many more times during the year.
(The author is director of resident advocacy and volunteers at the Jewish Association on Aging.)