Friday, March 26, 2010

ERC Lecture Series: The Development of Yiddish Literature Since the Czernowitz Conference

From Iosif Vaisman, in his description of the first Yiddish language conference:

The First Conference for the Yiddish Language, also known as the Tshernovits Conference, opened on Sunday, August 30, 1908. The Conference was convened to discuss very important topics, formulated in the ten point Conference agenda. To what extent the Conference succeeded in finding the solutions to any of these ten problems has been a subject of discussions (sometimes quite fierce) ever since. A simple look at the agenda is sufficient to see that many issues have yet to be resolved:

1. Yiddish spelling
2. Yiddish grammar
3. Foreign words and new words
4. A Yiddish dictionary
5. Jewish youth and the Yiddish language
6. The Yiddish press
7. The Yiddish theater and Yiddish actors
8. The economic status of Yiddish writers
9. The economic status of Yiddish actors
10. Recognition for the Yiddish language

In October 2008 Boris Sandler, Editor-in-Chief of the Forverts newspaper, gave a speech in Yiddish to attendees of the IAYC (International Association of Yiddish Clubs) conference about the development of Yiddish literature since this 1908 conference.

A transcript of his talk on this subject is available now in English and can be found within the "ERC Lecture Series" at the Museum's Education and Research Center.

You can read a transcript of his talk at .

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wily Marriage Makers of the East Side, 1905

The schatchens, i.e. the matchmakers, of the lower East Side in a 1905 article in the Los Angeles articles were described as both good and bad.

The schatchen is almost invariably of one type. He is not very tall; he is bearded, patriarchial and intensely Yiddish. he walks silently and watches every chance passerby with eyes that are both furtive and keen. He slips in and out of places almost without making his presence felt. When he speaks it is with a marked desire to please, but with strangers he is cautious and slow of tongue...

The article further states that the schatchen--

is a busy, prosperous man, with a good business and a large following of clients, and he has developed his ancient and picturesque trade along the modern lines of commercial America, but withal he remains the schatchen--the matchmaker, the trafficker in young men and maidens, the indefatigable, serene, obsequious, popular marriage broker.

However, the article's author states, there are also crooked, swindling schatchens, who are "next to impossible to arrest or convict."

So then if you are interested in learning about the good schatchen and the bad schatchen, please read this article. The article can be found at .

"Glimpses of Yiddish Czernowitz": A Forverts Film

A new film comes to you from the Forverts, i.e. the Yiddish Forward newspaper. The film is in Yiddish but has English subtitles. You can see the film's trailer at .

Here is a description of the film:

Bukovina—land of the beech tree spreading its branches across the Carpathian Mountains with its turbulent rivers and rushing streams. More than one generation of forest merchants and cattle drivers in partnership with the local peasantry drew their livelihood from the land. Czernowitz was blessed with resonant names—the Big City, Little Vienna, Jerusalem on the Prut, Jerusalem of Bukovina.

Short, but abundant visually, this filmic essay expresses critical historical moments of Jewish life in the city and region, from the first Jewish language conference to the torment of the Transnistrian deportation and subsequent decline of Jewish life in the post War period. Featuring contemporary interviews alongside original archival images, the film presents Czernowitz through native personalities such as fabulist and pedagogue Eliezer Steinbarg, beloved actress Sidi Tal, drama critic Moyshe Loyev, writer Josef Burg, poet Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, and linguist Prof. Wolf Moskovich.

Glimpses of Yiddish Czernowitz is a visual tale of an all but lost Jewish community. The film awakens our longing and calls us back to seek out the traces of that city of our dreams—the Jerusalem on the Prut.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Documents of Auschwitz Death Camp Doctors Found

I just found this article on the Internet and thought it might be of interest to my blog readers. Also, if you haven't yet read the testimony from Joe Rosenblum, an inmate at Auschwitz who worked in the Auschwitz hospital while Mengele was there, please do. The link is .

Here then is the article I mentioned:

By MONIKA SCISLOWSKA, Associated Press Writer

WARSAW, Poland – Food coupons for some of the notorious Nazi doctors at the Auschwitz death camp — including perhaps the sadistic Dr. Joseph Mengele — have been found in the attic of a nearby house, where they had lain unseen for decades.

Also found in the attic were other documents relating to the lives of Nazi officials, including death certificates and a map.

Some sugar coupons bear the names of Horst Fischer and Fritz Klein, doctors who were executed for their crimes after the war, Adam Cyra, a historian at the Auschwitz memorial museum who is looking through the documents, said Monday.

"The sensational value of this discovery is in the fact that these original documents, bearing the names of main murderers from Auschwitz, were found so many years after the war," Cyra said.

Cyra said he believes a June 1943 coupon for a small amount of sugar probably was assigned to Dr. Joseph Mengele, who was infamous for his sadistic experiments, but the writing is unclear.

A February 1944 coupon for 0.28 kilograms of butter is made out for a Dr. Mergerle. There was no SS doctor by that name at camp, so Cyra believes a clerk misspelled Mengele's name.

Doctors and pharmacists at the camp conducted pseudo-medical experiments on the inmates and helped select Jews arriving at the camp for either labor or death. Mengele escaped after World War II and evaded capture for the rest of his life.

The documents — almost 300 in total — were found in the attic of a house being renovated in the town of Oswiecim, where the Nazis built the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.

The homeowner, who has requested anonymity, made them available to historians at the Auschwitz museum on Friday, museum officials said. They believe the house was used by an SS officer during the war, but it is not clear which one.

Historians have checked through some of the documents but have more to pore over, museum spokesman Pawel Sawicki said.

The material does not document crimes committed at the camp.

The documents include a German-language map of the area around Oswiecim and a death certificate for Adolf Kroemer, a pharmacist at Auschwitz, saying he died of a heart attack in February 1944.

About 150 blank food coupons and death certificates were also found, Cyra said.

Between 1940 and 1945 more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed in the gas chambers at Auschwitz or died of starvation or disease while forced to perform hard labor at the camp.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Jewish Welfare Board Cares for 100,000 Fighting Men, 1918

This 1918 article begins with:

The Jewish Welfare Board is a win-the-war organization that is helping the United States government to build up the morale of more than 100,000 Jewish men in the army and navy. It is a national body cooperating with and under the supervision of the War Department Commission on Training Camp Activities.

The board was created by the joint action of representatives from some ten or twelve national Jewish organizations to meet the emergencies precipitated by the war. The organizations represented in its councils are: Agudath Ha-Rabbonim, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Council of Y.M.H. and kindred associations, Independent Order B'rith Abraham, Jewish Publication Society of America, Council of Jewish Women, Independent Order B’nai B’rith, Jewish Chautauqua Society, Independent Order B'rith Sholom, United Synagogues of America, National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods, New York Board of Jewish Ministers, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations.

You can find this article from the New York Tribune at .

Friday, March 19, 2010

Two new films of interest showing deportations from Galicia, Lodz and Krakow

I'd like to invite you to see two more of the Museum of Family History's Film Series short films, showing at the Museum until April 4th.

At least three separate locales seem to be part of this first film, and one is supposedly a Galician village from during the war. You can also see during the last minute and a half of the film what appears to be the deportation of Jews from the Lodz Ghetto. I'm hoping that someone can confirm this for me. While watching the end of this film I felt that I was in the railroad car as people were boarding it. It's one thing to read about the deportations, or see still photos of it, or even see films about the Lodz ghetto, e.g. the film about Irena Sendler, but it is another thing to see the actual footage.

I am hoping that someone who once lived in these areas or are otherwise well familiar with the landmarks in these towns will be able to identify the town. If so, please let me know and I will tell those on the list in another posting. It is unlikely that you will recognize anyone in the film, but one never knows.

The name of the clip is "Deportations of Jews" (aka "Deportation to the Death Camps"), and supposedly the film was taken by a Nazi cameraman. For me, the film is powerfully evocative and at times eerie, especially if you choose to listen to the soundtrack which is said to have been added at a later date. The film is nearly eight and a half minutes long.

The film clip can be watched at .

The second film is a shorter one, but nevertheless impactful as it shows the deportation of residents to the Krakow ghetto. The link for this short film is .

Links to the current films available for viewing within the Museum's Film Series can be found at .

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Emile Zola Backs up the Jews

"Zola Backs Up the Jews" in an 1896 article that appeared in the New York Sun newspaper via Le Figaro, backs up the "brotherhood of man." An interesting read from someone who staunchly defended Captain Dreyfus.

You can read the article at .

The article is actually an open letter written and signed by Zola. It begins this way:

For some years I have been following the campaign that men are trying to carry on in France against Jews with increasing surprise and disgust. To me it has the appearance of a monstrosity. I mean something beyond common sense and any idea of truth and justice, a foolish and blind thing that would put us centuries back, a thing that would end in the worst of all abominations, a religious persecution, covering all countries with blood. And I wish to speak out.

In the first place, what is the accusation against Jews? For what are they blamed? Many persons, even friends of mine, say that they can't endure them, that they can't touch their hands without feeling their flesh creep with repugnance; it is a physical horror, the repulsion of one race for another, of the white man against the yellow man, of the red man against the black man.

I will not inquire whether there does not enter into this repugnance the distant anger of the Christian against the Jew who crucified his God, a whole secular inheritance of contempt and vengeance. After all, physical disgust is a good reason, the only reason even, for there is no answering people who say to you: "I hate them because I hate them, because the very sight of their noses puts me beside myself, because all my flesh revolts at feeling that they are different and opposed to me."

There are now one hundred and twenty interesting articles available for your perusal. Please visit the archives at to see what might be of interest to you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

ERC Educational Program: "Through the Eye of the Needle - Fabric of Survival"

The Museum of Family History both develops its own and supports the educational programs and activities of other individuals and organizations. One such external education activity comes to the Museum via the children of Esther Krinitz, whose exhibition of lovely embroideries of scenes of her former home in pre-war Europe can be found among the Museum's "Reflections of Memory" sister exhibitions.

Sisters Bernice and Helene grew up with the stories of their mother Esther's courage and suffering as a child during the Second World War. Years later, after their mother began to turn her stories into a narrated series of fabric art pictures, they realized that art and story combined had enormous power. They believe that together, art and story could help people understand not only what war and intolerance are, but also how it feels to those who endure them.

The primary goal of their Art and Remembrance's educational programs is to open the minds of school-age children to the powerful experiences of victims of social injustice, as narrated through art. Through guided study on the works of A&R artists, students will be encouraged to reflect upon and gain a greater understanding of important issues such as cultural diversity, prejudice, the Holocaust, and other historical and contemporary manifestations of racism. Through the study of narrative art, A&R also hopes to empower children to share their own stories, and to learn about various techniques that will enable them to do so through art.

You can find their educational activity by clicking here.

In Brooklyn's Ghetto, circa 1905

With the opening of new bridges and subway routes from the lower East Side of Manhattan to the outlying boroughs, such as Brooklyn (or Kings County), thousands of Jews moved to these areas in hopes of finding better living conditions, e.g. less overcrowding and cheaper rents.

In the article published in the former Brooklyn Daily Eagle newsaper, a report is given as to Jewish life in Brooklyn, most notably the Williamsburg section.

The start of the article is its introduction:

"For eleven months two young women settlement workers and college graduates have been living in the heart of the Brooklyn Ghetto. They have been received as residents of this interesting colony of strange people with strange habits. These two observing students have become acquainted with the methods in the daily life of the Yiddish folk with whom they have cast their lot. The things they have seen and the reforms they have instituted are related in this article, written by one of them. As they will continue for some time to make their home in the district they have chosen as their field of labor, it will be apparent why their names must remain unpublished."

You can read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

Report from the Liberated Lodz Ghetto

"Good morning, gentlemen, we are from the Ghetto here. There are only 878 of us left."

These are the words that were spoken by Dr. Albert Mazur, a nose and throat specialist who survived the Lodz Ghetto. He was interviewed by a news correspondent not long after the liberation of the Lodz Ghetto.

The Ghetto had been liberated on January 19, 1945 by the Soviet Army, and the article in which this quote appeared was published less than three weeks after the Ghetto's liberation. Mazur had been one of the dozen of the 160 Jewish physicians in Lodz who had survived. He gave a report to a correspondent about the horrible conditions in the Ghetto -- the disease, death and deportations that occurred there.

You can read this short article which will be a part of the Museum's future "Jewish Ghettos" exhibition which will be readied for later this year. The article can be found at .

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pre-World War II Film Footage of Krakow and Bialystok

The Museum has added two more film shorts to its new Film Series, on view from now until March 21st. These films are of Bialystok and Krakow before the advent of World War II....:

1. "Jewish Life in Bialystok 1939" (10:04): Produced by Shaul and Yitzhak Goskind of Sektor Films, Warsaw. In 1939, this short film displays Jewish Bialystok the way it was in 1939 before the German Army invaded and occupied the city. The film is narrated in Yiddish with English subtitles. The narration ends with the following: "Come visit Bialystok. You won't regret it." -- Bialystok was invaded by the German Army that September.....

See the Museum of Family History's listing of Bialystok material at

2. "Jewish Life in Cracow (Kazimierz) 1939" (3:08): Krakow before the war. Background music by Abe Schwartz's Orchestra: "Yosl, Yosl, " 1925.

See the Museum of Family History's listing of Krakow material at

The full list on view at the Museum until March 21st can be found at

Friday, March 5, 2010

Compare and Contrast: Short Films of Kovno, Riga and Lwow from Before and During World War II

From World Jewish Communities: Kovno, Riga and Lwów... Three short films on view within the Museum's Film Series program through March 21.

How quickly a Jewish community can be upended, a city transformed from a 'peaceful' thriving 'metropolis' to one of destruction, occupation, imprisonment and death. Within this World Jewish Communities Film Series, you will have an opportunity to 'compare and contrast' life in the aforementioned cities cir 1939, i.e. shortly before the Second World War began, and life not long after these cities were invaded and occupied as the destruction of both people and property reigned.

Before World War II:

"Jewish Life in Kovno, Riga and Lwów" (9:42). This documentary was made in the early spring of 1939, just months before the start of the Second World War in Europe. Narration in Yiddish.
Click here.

During World War II:

"Lwów Lemberg 1941" (2: 38). This 1941 8 mm film depicts the Germans entering Lwów (Lemberg in German). You can see attacks against the Jews there, as well as provocative acts. Before the war Lwów was part of Poland, but was annexed by Russia on September 22, 1939. This time, the film short is narrated in German. From YouTube. Click here.

"German Troops in Riga" (8:29). World War II, German troops near Daugavpils (Dunaburg) moving to Riga (Latvia). Fights and the liberation of Riga. Communist war crimes, Nazi behavior to Latvian Jews, Nazi propaganda, Fights near Liepaja (Libau). Again the narration for this film short is in German. From YouTube. Click here.

The Museum of Family History's "Yiddish World Under the Stars" presents -- "Tevye the Milkman" (1939) -- Two Clips in Yiddish

Tevye is a dairyman in the Russian Ukraine early in the 20th century. He lives in a cabin outside Boyberik with his wife Goldie, his widowed daughter Tseytl, her two children, and his younger daughter, the unmarried Khave. Khave is being courted by Fedya, a Christian, the son of a local government official. Tevye warns Khave against romance and marriage outside her faith, but Fedya is persuasive too. What will Khave decide, how will Tevye react, and when the Tsar initiates a pogrom, will Tevyes friends come to his defense? Can the stubborn Tevye reconcile his heart and tradition? On the other hand....From YouTube. You can view these two clips by clicking here. Last showing March 21.

Don't forget to visit the Museum's Great Artists Series exhibition about Maurice Schwartz and his Yiddish Art Theatre.

Al Jolson Film Festival: "Show Business at War"

During the Second World War, many in show business did what they could to support the troops and the cause.

On May 21, 1943, a short film titled "Show Business at War" was released. It was part of an effort put forth my various studios to show the newsreel audience the progress of the Hollywood war effort.

Many Hollywood stars appear in this newsreel, one of whom is Al Jolson, who is seen and heard singing "Mammy" to the troops. Many others in show business appear in this film.

You can see the short film by clicking here.

Don't forget to visit the Museum's large Al Jolson exhibition titled "The Immortal Al Jolson" (and see and hear many more videos, not to mention more than forty sound clips) at .

This short film will be shown only at the Museum through March 21.

"Rites of Passage": A New Museum of Family History Exhibition

The life of a Jew is often filled with rituals that mark a significant change in his or her life or social status. These rites of passage may take many forms but each is deeply woven into the Jewish tradition and culture. These rites may be ceremonies that surround seminal events in a Jew's life, such as childbirth, when he or she becomes a bar- or bat-mitzvah, gets married, to the day when he or she inevitably passes away.

In this exhibition, the religious and secular significance of each event is discussed, stories are told, often through the words of those who experienced these events, or perhaps through their progeny.

What is a mohel? What is the significance of becoming a bar mitzvah? In "Rites of Passage" you can read about what a Polish Jewish wedding was like in the very early 1900s and see an early ketubah as well as a wedding invitation. Even though divorce is not a rite of passage, a page is devoted to the description of Jewish divorce in early 20th century Poland.

Then, what of death? Here you can read about how Jews in Poland buried their dead in the early 20th century, read about the Chevra Kadisha, the significance of the Jewish burial, mourning period, unveiling and the family cemetery visit. You will see, for instance, a photo of Solomon and Ester Rabinovitch at Ester's mother's gravesite. Solomon was the builder of the Great Synagogue of Bialystok which was tragically destroyed during the war. Coincidentally, this photo was taken just a day before the Germans marched into Bialystok in September of 1939.

As is the goal of the Museum, a number of personal stories as told by those who lived in Eastern Europe before the Second World War are interspersed within this exhibition, with the occasional story of Jewish life within the United States.

You can visit this informative and interesting exhibition by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Yizkor Book of Zambrów, Poland: The English Language Version

The United Zembrover Society would like to welcome you to its English translation of the Zambrów Yizkor Book, or Book of Remembrance. The UZS is one of a dwindling number of still-active landsmanshaftn (mutual aid societies), more than one hundred and thirty members strong. Most all of its current members are proud descendants of Zembrovers. They each feel a need to stay connected to their heritage, and because of this meet twice per year in New York City to share their common bond, to do what they can to preserve the memory of their beloved family members and "ancestral town." The UZS is still going strong, more than one hundred years after it was first established.

The Zambrów Yizkor Book was first published in 1963 by the combined societies of those who were descended from the Jewish community of Zambrów, Poland. Zambrów was a once-vibrant community which, like so many Jewish communities that once existed in Europe, was wiped out by those who once sought their complete annihilation. These descendants of Zembrovers-- both those who were born and once lived in Zambrów, as well as those who were their progeny -- at the time of publication lived in various parts of the world such as the United States, Israel and Argentina.

This Yizkor Book does an excellent job in preserving the memory of the past history of Zambrów town, from its origin and the first sign of Jews in the community (at least in the early seventeenth century), to its presentation of a plethora of accounts of various aspects of Jewish life there. Colorful descriptions of many personages of Jewish faith who once populated Zambrów make for excellent reading.

This English translation project is projected to take from three to as many as five years and is fully funded and driven by the United Zembrover Society. After each translated section has been read, proofed, edited and proofed once again, it will be added to the current translation. When finished, the Society hopes to create hard copies, bound books available by purchase by its members or anyone else who wishes to learn more about the history of Jewish Zambrów.

The Yizkor Book translation is just one aspect of the Museum's World Jewish Communities permanent exhibition. You can learn more about what other material of interest exists at the Museum about Zambrów by visiting the World Jewish Communities Zambrów at .

You can read the Zembrover Yizkor Book in English, i.e. what has been translated to the present day, by visiting , or simply use the link provided on the World Jewish Communities Zambrów page.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Nu for You at the Museum's Screening Room: "Four Seasons Lodge" (2008)

From the darkness of Hitler’s Europe to the lush mountains of New York’s Catskills, Four Seasons Lodge follows a community of Holocaust survivors who come together each summer at their beloved bungalow colony to dance, cook, fight, flirt ­ and celebrate their survival.

Beautifully photographed by a team of cinematographers led by Albert Maysles (Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens) and Justin Schein (No Impact Man) this unexpectedly funny film confronts sobering topics like aging, loss and the legacy of the Holocaust, capturing the Lodgers’ intoxicating passion for life as the fate of their colony hangs in the balance.

In an inspiring and startling documentary, a remarkable tribe whose members are fast disappearing come together for one final summer in the Catskill Mountains - they’re Holocaust Survivors with a captivating joie de vivre and a bracing sense of humor.

Four Seasons Lodge is a counterintuitive film tied to the Holocaust, one that captures the Lodgers' intoxicating passion for living, in bracing contrast to lives harrowed by loss. The documentary is about tightly bonded friendships and the quest for peace in spite of haunting memories, as experienced through compelling people and the richness of their intensely close lives.

This vivid, inspiring, and unexpectedly funny portrait reveals the indomitable spirit of a singular community. “This is our revenge,” one camper explains. “To live this long, this well, is a victory.”
You can view the film preview at