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Ocasio-Cortez Should Do Her Homework

(In a letter to Jewish Voice publisher David Ben Hooren, Jack Rosen, the president of the American Jewish Congress speaks out on the outrage of NY Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s insane analogy of immigrant shelters on the US southern border and concentration camps in Nazi occupied Europe during WWII)

Dear David,

As someone whose parents survived the horrors of the Holocaust, I have been repeatedly uneased by the willingness of our politicians to invoke comparisons to this stain on humanity in an attempt to jar the public. Just recently, New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did so while discussing migrant detention centers in our country’s south. She explicitly stated that our government is “running concentration camps” and that such practices have been institutionalized. She summoned people to say “never again,” invoking the post-World War II cry to never allow the systematic slaughter of millions of Jews to reoccur.

To say that what is occurring within our immigration system—as awful as it may be—is remotely comparable to mass murder on the scale of the Holocaust is a cheapening of the atrocities and their place in history, as well as of the power of the words we use to capture its unique inhumanity and violence.

I frequently recount the tragedy that my family endured during the Holocaust. My grandfather and uncle were burnt alive and after surviving Auschwitz my parents fled to a displaced persons camp, where I was born not too long after. We got off easy compared to those destined for the concentration camps. As heartbreaking as the images of children in detention centers on our southern border are, comparing them to Birkenau or Treblinka or Auschwitz concentration camps demean the memories of those exterminated thereby attempting to create a moral equivalence in the popular understanding. Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s comments are uneducated and insensitive. A Congresswoman from New York City, who represents the nation’s largest Jewish population, should do her homework before making such outlandish comparisons and learn that to a Jew, being sent to a concentration camp meant a death sentence.

Apologizing is not enough. By making these comments she is displaying ineptitude in representing her city.

Best regards,

Jack Rosen
President
American Jewish Congress


Tarnow Poland Jewish Cemetery

Dear Editor:

Celebrating the largest cooperative public-private single Jewish cemetery restoration effort conducted in Poland, and perhaps elsewhere, the Friends of Jewish Heritage in Poland is pleased to announce the rededication of the Tarnów, Poland Jewish cemetery taking place on Wednesday, June 26, 2019.

Jews had lived in Tarnów for about 500 years prior to World War II, and, numbering about 25,000, comprised about half of the town’s total population. Today there are fewer than a handful of known Jews living in the town of over 100,000 inhabitants. Its major Jewish cemetery was severely devastated by German actions during the war, followed by vandalism and neglect after the war. Yet thousands of tombstones survived to this day. Adam Bartosz, a Polish Catholic, retired director of the Regional Museum in Tarnów, took it upon himself to preserve the history of the Jews of Tarnów and to care for and build interest in restoring this once great cemetery.

He formed an all-volunteer Committee for Protection of Jewish Heritage in Tarnów in 1988 and has led this project for the past thirty years. In 2017 that committee received a substantial 3:1 matching grant from the European Union to support major restoration work at the Tarnów Jewish cemetery. That grant is providing 2.4 million Polish złoty (over $600,000) to match the committee’s raising 800,000 Polish złoty (about $200,000). The seed funds were provided by individual and organizational donors including the Małopolska Polish regional government, the Polish Ministry of Culture, and the Tarnów mayor’s office.

The Friends of Jewish Heritage in Poland, an IRS-designated 501(c)(3) public charity, has actively partnered with a Tarnów Jewish descendants’ group especially led by Dr. Jill Leibman and Elizabeth Szancer to help the local Tarnów committee raise the needed funds to qualify for the EU-sponsored matching grant. We acknowledge the particularly generous support of Ronald Lauder in making this project a success, along with the kindness of Bruce and Lori Gendelman of the Sidney Kohl Family Foundation. Donations of all sizes came in from supporters worldwide.

Restoration work (done under the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate of Poland) has included rebuilding the walls of the cemetery, installing sidewalks, cleaning away decades of brush and vegetation, restoring many toppled and eroded tombstones and a Shoah (Holocaust) monument, converting the former Bet Taharah (funeral preparation room) into a mini-museum, and indexing thousands of tombstones in the cemetery to preserve those records on-line for access in posterity. The indexing project has already led to many descendants finding physical connections to their ancestors in the cemetery.

The rededication ceremony is scheduled at the cemetery for 1:00 PM on Wednesday, June 26. Speakers at the event (in Polish and English) include Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich, Chief Bishop of Poland for Catholic-Jewish Dialogue Rafał Markowski, Israeli Ambassador to Poland Anna Azari, Committee Chairman Adam Bartosz, Mayor of Tarnów Roman Ciepela, Tarnów descendant Elizabeth Szancer and Friends of Jewish Heritage in Poland President Dr. Dan Oren.

The Friends of Jewish Heritage in Poland thanks Mr. Bartosz for his extraordinary leadership of this project, as well as our donors and all the supporters of this project. Donations to help support the future maintenance of this successful effort are welcomed at jewishheritagepoland.org/tarnoacutew.

Sincerely

The Friends of Jewish Heritage in Poland

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