“Farewell, Auschwitz” is a work commissioned by Music of Remembrance (MOR) and created by composer Jake Heggie and lyricist Gene Scheer. The lyrics are derived from Krystyna Zywulska’s poetry written in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. The video above is the finale of “Farewell, Auschwitz,” performed at its world premiere in Seattle on May 14, 2013.
Heggie has composed three pieces for MOR: “For a Look or a Touch” (2007); “Another Sunrise” (2012); and “Farewell, Auschwitz” (2013). He believes that by putting on musical concerts using Holocaust themes and music, MOR offers an invaluable opportunity for people to learn about the Holocaust in a novel way. “Music reveals levels of our hearts and souls that sometimes we aren’t in touch with,” Heggie says, adding that he tries to convey what is unspoken or what cannot be spoken.
Heggie attempts to mine the emotional truth of the Holocaust through his work with MOR. ”Wwe’re not out to make documentaries,” he says. In his three MOR-commissioned works, Heggie has collaborated with Mina Miller, MOR’s artistic director, to find subject matter that is deeply meaningful to him. His works have explored such topics as the persecution of gays by the Nazis and the moral dilemmas constantly facing those who tried to survive the brutality of Nazi concentration camps.
The language of Heggie and Scheer’s work is often directly inspired by the words written by Holocaust victims, as in their reliance on Zywulska’s poetry for “Farewell, Auschwitz.” And the music Heggie composes for his pieces relyless on modern music and tries instead to mimic the music typical of the historical setting. For instance, in “For a Look or a Touch,” Heggie created a musical score that could very well have been heard in a Berlin night club during the early 20th century. He has also used German folk music and waltzes in his MOR commissions to reflect the diverse cultural backgrounds each inmate brought into the camps.
Heggie hopes his audience will enjoy the performance, but he hopes they’re entertained in a way that is profoundly deep and transformative. “I always hope the audience will be open to feeling something new that maybe takes them by surprise or [gives them an] insight into a human experience that they hadn’t considered,” Heggie says. “[Miller] really wants to explore all different aspects of Holocaust remembrance and how they impact us today. Through remembrance we realize we’re still the same people we were all those years ago.”
From July 29 to Aug. 4, 35 residents from B’nai B’rith low-income apartment buildings across the country came to Lake Como, Pa., for the Resident Leadership Retreat at B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp. The biannual retreat, run by the B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services, features daily training sessions, entertainment and intergenerational programs with the campers.
During the retreat, some of the residents gave video interviews about their lives. They described why they enjoy living in their B’nai B’rith apartment buildings and how much they appreciated the retreat and being at camp.
For almost 50 years, B’nai B’rith has been committed to making apartments available to seniors of limited means, providing them a safe and secure space to age with dignity. And, since 1987, the Center for Senior Services has been bringing seniors to Perlman Camp to take part in the Resident Leadership Retreat. After a week of learning and entertainment at the beautiful camp setting in the Pocono Mountains, they go back home with the knowledge and ability to make real, positive changes in their apartment buildings.
Click on the videos below to watch resident testimonials. And look out for the winter issue of B’nai B’rith Magazine, which will feature a story about the Resident Leadership Retreat in the B’nai B’rith Today section.
Kristina Rodulfo, who took first place in the 2007 B’nai B’rith Diverse Minds Youth Writing contest. Rodulfo, now a senior at New York University, discusses her book “The Other Von Higgley” and the Diverse Minds competition.
A Captive Jewish Airman in Europe
In your recent summer 2013 magazine issue you ran an article about a captive Jewish airman. I, as a former Jewish prisoner of war, cannot understand why you picked this individual—perhaps he is a friend or close relationship. It is obvious you failed to do adequate research on Jewish POWs in Nazi Germany before printing this article. I happen to personally know Mr. Horn, and he is a fine gentleman. I did not discuss the article with him.
In his 36 days as a POW, I assure you, he barely had sufficient time to recover from the normal shock of being captured or suffered the loss of freedom, the indignities inflicted by the Germans, the hunger and accompanied loss of weight and much more. If you had done your homework and investigated POWs who did not deny their religion, you could have come away with a decent piece of journalism. For your own information, why don’t you check the website about Berga and see how the Germans gathered American JUDEN and used them as slave labor.
Let it suffice to say that I am very upset at the article and the portrayal of Jewish POWs who did not deny their religion and were incarcerated by the Nazi regime.
Irving S. Schrom
Served as Platoon Leader 3rd Platoon, “C” Company, 423rd Reg., 106th Infantry Div.
Captured and wounded at Battle of the Bulge—was POW Dec. 19, 1944 through April 29, 1945.
Writer Bruce Wolk responds:
In the course of preparing my book, “Stars on My Wings,” I interviewed 14 Jewish POWs. Each man had his own set of experiences and each witnessed his captivity in different ways. No man denied his Jewish faith. No one hid behind a mask, and no one ever denied the experience of another. I interviewed a Jewish POW who was placed in front of a mock firing squad, another who was whipped with a riding crop, some forced to run through gauntlets and others who were sent on brutal forced marches. It is unfair to say that one man in captivity had it better than another in captivity.
What makes Harvey Horn's experience unique is that he was never in captivity and in the end, he actually helped save his guards. He was the only Jewish POW I interviewed who was captured at sea. In his march, three different sets of guards accompanied him. He was always in fear.
As to Berga, it was a terrible, tragic and awful situation. Books and documentaries have been written on Berga. It was clear that in the end the U.S. Government looked the other way. Yet, it was outside of the scope of this article. The writer should also be aware that gentiles as well as Jews were subject to the horrors of Berga. That said, I also interviewed Jewish POWs who claimed they were hardly affected by their captivity as POWs at all.
I appreciate the writer's passion and our nation should always be grateful for his service and sacrifice. The Jewish community, especially, should hold its WWII veterans dear.
By Seth Shapiro
From left to right: Daniel S. Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith International executive vice president; Nancy Hellman Bechtle, chair of the Presidio Trust Board and member of the dinner’s tribute committee; Michael Shepherd, chairman and chief executive officer of Bank of the West and Bancwest Corporation; and Allan J. Jacobs, B’nai B’rith International president.
B’nai B’rith International, celebrating its 170th anniversary year, honored Michael Shepherd, the chairman and chief executive officer of Bank of the West and Bancwest Corporation, with its Distinguished Achievement Award at a dinner on May 22 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in San Francisco. In accepting the award, Shepherd likened Bank of the West to B’nai B’rith, noting that the good works of both entities stem from their similar origins which date back to the 19th century.
“Our Bank has a very distinguished record of achievement dating from its founding as Farmer’s National Gold Bank of San Jose in 1874,” Shephard said. “Like B’nai B’rith—and all of us in our firms and families—we draw inspiration from the examples of our forbearers, and we celebrate those who set us on the right path of supporting the growth and prosperity of our communities.”
For the past four decades, B’nai B’rith has honored corporate and community leaders dedicated to bettering their communities. Shepherd and Bank of the West—through their commitment to philanthropy, community service and leadership in promoting tolerance and diversity—were recognized by B’nai B’rith for their work.
“When looking at potential recipients for this award, it’s important that we find someone who embodies the values of B’nai B’rith—and Michael Shepherd does just that,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs, who presented the award to Shepherd. “Michael sets the bar high and actively drives Bank of the West’s commitment to meeting the needs of its customers and the communities in which it does business. Under Michael’s leadership, Bank of the West galvanizes its community development loans and investments, charitable contributions and team member volunteer hours to improve the social and economic health of the neighborhoods it serves, especially those that are under-resourced.”
Shepherd believes that Bank of the West and B’nai B’rith “share that commitment to community.” Along with being regular contributors toward disaster-relief efforts, Bank of the West is also committed to improving financial literacy in “underserved and under-banked” communities, Shepherd said.
“We believe that we prosper with our communities and with our customers,” Shepherd says in an interview with B’nai B’rith Magazine. “We believe we can do good and make a good profit at the same time. We’re hardly a charitable organization, but we’re committed to making our communities prosper because we know that’s good for us, too.”
Among his proudest achievements, Shepherd cites the ability of Bank of the West to continue to be successful following the onset of the financial crisis in 2008 and the bank’s ability to help its customers through that difficult time.
“Especially at a time where bank reputations in communities in [America] and around the world have been eroded, it’s great to have a bank identified for having made contributions to its communities to help finance the dreams of small businesses or individuals,” Shepherd says, explaining the significance of receiving the Distinguished Achievement Award. “That association with an organization as prestigious and deserving of high regard as B’nai B’rith is a wonderful thing for the banking industry as well as Bank of the West.”
Being honored with the award is validating, Shepherd says. It reaffirms the values Bank of the West has been committed to and inspires the bank and its colleagues to continue down a path dedicated to community improvement.
“Michael Shepherd is an inspiring chief executive who leads by example in the worlds of business and civic responsibility,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin, who gave the closing remarks at the dinner. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to pay tribute to him and to Bank of the West at the 2013 Distinguished Achievement Award Dinner.”
From July 29 to Aug. 4, 35 residents from B’nai B’rith low-income apartment buildings across the country came to Lake Como, Pa., for the Resident Leadership Retreat at B’nai B’rith Perlman Camp. The biannual retreat, run by the B’nai B’rith Center for Senior Services, features daily training sessions, entertainment activities and intergenerational programming with the campers.
During the retreat, some of the residents did video interviews about their lives. They described why they enjoy living in their B’nai B’rith apartment buildings and how much they appreciated the retreat and being at camp.
For almost 50 years, B’nai B’rith has been committed to making apartments available to seniors of limited means, providing them a safe and secure space to age with dignity. And since 1987, the Center for Senior Services has been bringing seniors to Perlman Camp to take part in the Resident Leadership Retreat where they learn from the B’nai B’rith staff and their fellow residents. After a week of learning and entertainment at the beautiful camp setting in the Pocono Mountains, they go back home with the knowledge and ability to make real, positive changes to their apartment buildings.
Click on the videos below to watch resident testimonials. And look out for the winter issue of B’nai B’rith Magazine, which will feature a story about the Resident Leadership Retreat in the B’nai B’rith Today section.
Eva Garcia from the Pasadena Interfaith Manor
in Pasadena, Texas, interacts with a Perlman camper
during an intergenerational program.
In the weeks following Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, Dr. John Estrada, a pediatrician and associate professor at the Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, provided medical attention to the displaced victims living in a shelter in Ville Platte, La., about 150 miles west of the city. With a small support team and minimal funds, Estrada could provide only limited aid—he needed more money to procure medical supplies for these individuals, many of whom, in their rush to flee the hurricane, had left their medications at home. With $10,000 from the B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Fund, Estrada was able to purchase necessary medicines. In an interview with B’nai B’rith Magazine, he describes the significance of the disaster aid by B’nai B’rith and other organizations. Dr. John Estrada
B’nai B’rith Magazine: Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005. Where were you living and working at the time?
Dr. John Estrada: I was and still am with LSU Health Science Center, on the faculty of pediatrics. Back then, I just didn’t pay that much attention to the hurricanes. I had been here since 2001. A friend from Gulfport, Miss., was taking a plane from New Orleans to Los Angeles, and he left his car at my home, because [New Orleans] was the closest airport. He called from L.A. and said, “Evidently, there is a hurricane going by. And I realized I don’t have gas in my car.” I said, “Don’t worry, I will fill it up.” That is when I realized that this was serious, because when I went to the gas station, [there was a long] line of people getting gas to leave town. That was the most telling sign that I needed to prepare for something.
BBM: How did you end up in the shelter in Ville Platte?
Estrada: I drove to Ville Platte [to escape the hurricane.] This area is very interesting because it was settled by French people who came from Canada. They were persecuted in France and in Canada, also. It is called the Cajun Land, for Acadia. These people are very resourceful, independent, very welcoming. It is really a distinctive culture. They have incredible music.
So I had befriended some people there, and I thought it would be a good thing for me to spend a week with my friends. I didn’t take anything. I didn’t secure my house. I took from the second floor of my house some boxes that had old pictures of the family that were given to me by my sisters. I thought this is valuable, and at least I don’t want to lose that.
My housekeeper [stayed] in [New Orleans.] She called on Tuesday and said, “Dr. Estrada there is something very abnormal. There is water coming like a river.” That was kind of my connection, my first indication that the levees had broken. That is when I paid attention to the TV. By this time, people were calling from all over to find out if I was OK. On Wednesday, somebody came to the house [where I was staying in Ville Platte] and said they need a doctor at a shelter. I thought, “I can go there for a few minutes. I’d be back before lunch.”
It was Labor Day [weekend], and many of the doctors had gone on vacation. When I arrived at the shelter—it was in a school that had a big gymnasium—there were around 500 people there. I came to find out that they had gotten these people from the [New Orleans] Superdome. They had been on buses bound for Houston. But many didn’t have the means to prepare or to leave town. They knew that the [local people in Ville Platte] were very generous and very open and very welcoming. And they didn’t want to go to Houston. They basically forced the drivers to drop them in these towns in Cajun Land instead of going to Houston.
So picture this: These were small towns that didn’t have the resources to handle this situation. Yet they were flooded with people from New Orleans. I realized that many of these people needed medical attention because they had left without any medications, without many essentials. We created a kind of a triage system to take care of the most needy. In a few minutes, the director of the hospital came, and he was very alarmed because he thought we were going to refer these people to the hospital, and he just didn’t have the capacity.
We started taking care of them. Soon enough, they opened a park to accommodate [them]. The pharmacies in the towns offered to help. These people [staying in the shelter] could not fill out their medication [prescriptions]. The governmental and nongovernmental relief agencies have a bureaucracy. They have a system to dispense help that is sometimes very cumbersome. The people could not access any help from relief agencies. The [local] pharmacies could not provide for them. They are mom-and-pop operations that could go broke.
BBM: How did you get in touch with B’nai B’rith?
Estrada: One of my friends, Steve Rogers, is Jewish. He called and said, “What do you need?” I said, “I need money to give to these people to pay the pharmacies for medications.” He said, “Let me call B’nai B’rith.”
Soon enough, they call, and there is a check for $10,000 that we can deposit. So I talk to the the local parish priest and ask him to receive the money, because I didn’t want to be the custodian of the money. And soon enough we established a bank account.
The donation of $10,000 was more important than anything.
That was really very powerful, to realize that the government agencies with all their power were not able to help the people. This, to me, is disaster relief: the generosity of your neighbor, of your friends, of your family.
We were so successful in this triage system that we set up in Ville Platte. By this time, the shelter had really accomplished its initial mission, but there were still people coming. We set up the same system [in another town]. They had heard what we had done in Ville Platte. We were really busy. I didn’t have the time to listen to the news. I had a group of two nurses. And we were like a little team.
BBM: What is New Orleans like today? How have the disaster relief efforts by organizations like B’nai B’rith helped the city rebuild from the devastation of the hurricane?
Estrada: New Orleans is a unique city. It represents what is authentically fun in food and music. The initial news about New Orleans was that the city was going to be shut down for five to 10 years. In a few months, though, we had a Mardi Gras parade. And today, it seems the city has blossomed, thanks, I believe, to federal money and volunteers like Teach for America and to volunteers from Jewish organizations who came to help.
So in conclusion: The demographics have changed, with a lot of people who have actually moved in to help in the rebuilding. New Orleans matters, and it matters because it can teach the meaning of help, the meaning of neighborhood and the meaning of being together. But it also can teach you the worst that human beings can show in moments of distress. The good, the bad and the ugly, that’s what New Orleans represented in the midst of disaster.
A top worry among seniors is the possibility of outliving their savings. Yet, as we explore in the summer cover story of B’nai B’rith Magazine, longevity is not the only threat to their savings. Seniors can also be vulnerable to financial scams and exploitation.
“Most financial exploitation is perpetrated by family members or caregivers at an intimate level,” observes Leah Nichaman, founder and president of Everyday Money Management, a fee-based Rockville, Md. firm that helps seniors with financial matters.
Seniors often need a trusted adviser to help them manage their financial affairs. Unfortunately, she says, too many advisers attempt to control the senior—and their money—through emotional or psychological abuse. “Having an objective third party involved makes exploitation less likely to happen in the first place,” says Nichaman. “It’s also more likely to be detected if it does occur.”
“It’s important to make sure that your financial life is transparent to at least one other trusted person. The ideal relationship would be an attorney, money manager, financial adviser and family members, all working together.”
To avoid scams, Nichaman offers these prevention tips:
- Identify a trusted individual to have power of attorney over your funds. It should be someone willing to accept fiduciary responsibility who can document everything and act as a legal agent.
- Establish transparency. Be sure to specify how this individual can use money, his or her powers and boundaries, and who else can see what’s going on.
- Use direct deposit and lock up the checkbook. Seniors often have increased traffic of persons passing through their homes. Remove these temptations.
- Have someone review monthly statements. This is especially important with automated payments.
- Choose a financial adviser who is not tied to any specific product. Seek out an independent adviser with a broad perspective.
By Bruce H. Wolk
The presentation ceremony of the Distinguished Flying Cross to copilot Loren Millard at Wright Patterson Air Field in Dayton, Ohio. From left to right: General Janet Wolfenbarger; Harvey Horn’s wife, Minverva Horn; Harvey Horn; and three of Millard’s four children, Norma Stefanik, William Millard and Kenneth Millard.
On March 20, 1945, Harvey Horn, a Jewish flight officer from Brooklyn, N.Y., was navigating the bomber dubbed “Pretty Baby’s Boys.” The plane, on its way to bomb railroad yards south of Vienna, Austria, was hit by flak over Zagreb, Croatia. The engines began to fail, and the plane began to sputter out of control. Pilot John Lincoln and copilot Lorin Millard wrested control of the bomber as it came in over Fiume at just 500 feet. Anti-aircraft batteries opened up on them. The pilots ditched the bomber under fire into Kvarner Bay, Yugoslavia, at 100 miles per hour, saving the lives of all 10 crewmembers. Their feat would go unrecorded and unappreciated. Yet for Horn, there remained the nagging feeling that something had to be done to honor his pilots. The feeling did not diminish with time. B’nai B’rith Magazine recently interviewed Horn about his efforts to get his pilot and copilot the recognition they deserved.
BBM: When did you realize the pilot and co-pilot needed to be honored?
Horn: I always believed that any pilot who ditched a plane and saved lives should be awarded a medal. Years ago, our tail gunner Sergeant Louis Brown, asked me to put in a medal for the crew. I replied, “Why? We didn’t do anything. John and Lorin should be awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) for what they did to save our lives.” I also told him that I wasn’t high enough in the chain of command. Only John, who had passed away by then, or Lorin could have initiated the application. By then, Lorin was about 88. He had no interest in pursuing this claim.
BBM: Then why did you feel responsible to start the process?
Horn: Simply, they were my heroes. Then on Jan. 15, 2009, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger magnificently landed his U.S. Airways jet into the Hudson River. I said to my wife that my guys did the same thing but in a B17, under fire, that had a ball turret sticking out of the bottom. Then and there, I made up my mind to apply for the DFC for John and Lorin.
BBM: Was it difficult to make the application?
Horn: First, I was told that the cut-off date for WWII commendations was May 1951, and I almost quit; I then learned the rule was rescinded in 1996 to a case-by-case basis. Nevertheless, I started by writing to Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley, then to the senators and congressmen from my state of New York, and then Ohio and California, Lorin and John’s home states. One of my roadblocks was that someone of higher rank than I needed to have first-hand knowledge of the ditching. As it turned out, the only eye witnesses I had were two local kids in Fiume, Italy.
BBM: How did you learn this?
Horn: In 2007, my wife and I visited Rijeka. Incredibly, the travel agent had a cousin, Stelio Vranicich, who was nine years old at the time and saw the crash landing. Also, there was a 12-year old boy, Ivo Simonic, who was standing next to two SS officers. One of the officers said to Ivo, “The pilot must be very efficient and competent and have great skill.” They remembered that day with great accuracy. Stelio Vranicich, now 74, wrote a letter on behalf of the pilots that I submitted as part of the application.
BBM: Was anyone else helpful to you during the process?
Horn: The offices of New York Senator Chuck Schumer and Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan were particularly helpful. They wrote letters of support. The real breakthrough came when I called the Air Force Review Board and spoke with former Sgt. Raymond Diaz, chief of intake analysis. He helped me fill out all the proper forms. I also gave Ray information on contacts for John and Lorin’s families. I pleaded for the process to be expedited as Lorin was dying of cancer. (Lorin died July 9, 2011.)
BBM: Despite your hard work, the first application was rejected.
Horn: They said my story had inconsistencies. They said we weren’t hit by flak, but that the engines were pulling too much power, an engine malfunction. Incredibly, the tail gunner was awarded the Purple Heart from being hit by a piece of flak on that same mission. Sergeant Stover, the radio operator, wrote that they were hit by flak in his story for the 772nd Bomber Group history book. Then the review board said I wasn’t under John’s command. That was obviously incorrect. Nevertheless, it was rejected.
BBM: But then it was reversed?
Horn: Yes, a letter submitted by Louis Brown, my fellow crewmember who had been hit by flak, was not previously considered by the Air Force Review Board. Therefore, the board reviewed the entire application process. Surprisingly, on March 16, 2012, Ray called and said the board reversed its findings. John and Lorin would be awarded the medal. I was literally brought to tears and walking on air. John Lincoln’s family declined a presentation and had the medal sent to them. The Millard family was informed the presentation could be made at Wright Patterson Air Field in Dayton, Ohio.
BBM: How many crewmen remain from Pretty Baby’s Boys?
Horn: I believe I am the last.
BBM: You told me that you were the only Jewish airman on the crew. We are taught tikkun olam, to help heal the world. Do you feel you performed such an act?
Horn: In a way, yes. These two men made a difference for all of us. I would not have lived my life; none of us would have lived our lives. I’m persistent. I believe that if something is doable, I find a way to do it. I stayed with it.
Jews and Muslims in America
In response to our winter 2012 cover story on Jewish-Muslim relations in America, we received several letters to the editor. Below is an exchange between one letter writer—Eric Rozenman, the Washington, D.C. director of CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America)—and Dina Kraft, who reported and wrote the story. The initial letter by Rozenman and response by Kraft (below) were published in the spring 2013 issue. The follow-up letter and response (which are posted here, below the initial exchange) were recently submitted and are being published online only.
The article “Jews and Muslims in America: A New Flowering Amid the Tensions” in the Winter issue of B’nai B’rith Magazine relates some moving vignettes about Jewish-Muslim outreach. Unfortunately, it relies too heavily on Prof. Ingrid Mattson and the organization of which she is a past president, the Islamic Society of North America.
The article refers to the Islamic Society of North America as “the largest umbrella organization for Muslim groups.” That is how the society presents itself. However, it is hardly “Islamophobic” to point out that:
The society traces its roots to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to spread sharia, Islamic law, globally.
It was an unindicted co-conspirator in America’s largest terrorism funding trial to date, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development case. Though society officials claim it has moved beyond its Brotherhood roots, a Brotherhood list of “our organization and the organizations of our friends” seized by federal investigators in the successful Holy Land Foundation prosecution included ISNA.
FBI records from the 1980s indicate “ISNA conferences provided opportunities for the extreme fundamentalist Muslims to meet with their supporters.”
Money from Saudi Arabia has been a key source of ISNA support since its creation; and ISNA conferences have continued to feature anti-Israel, anti-Semitic publications and speakers.
During Mattson’s 2006–2010 presidency, she discounted the existence of radical Muslims in the United States despite a spike in homegrown extremism. As a professor of Islamic studies and Christian-Muslim relations at Hartford Seminary, she downplayed the extremism of Saudi Arabia’s puritanical, anti-Western Wahhabi school of Islam…
Jewish-Muslim outreach is important and, as the article noted, so is knowing to whom we are reaching out.
Washington (D.C.) Director
CAMERA—Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America
Writer Dina Kraft responds:
The accusations [CAMERA] cites are dated and discounted. The Anti-Defamation League and the Reform movement swear by Mattson and ISNA. As I note in the story, Eric Yoffie (past president of the Union of Reform Judaism) was a featured speaker at their convention a few years ago.
A federal judge has said that the status of the group as an unindicted co-conspirator should never have been revealed, because the federal government needed the unindicted co-conspirator not to implicate ISNA and other groups, but to facilitate entry of evidence against Holy Land. He said the revelation harmed groups that committed no criminal activity. The feds agreed and admitted the mistake. It’s more than a little McCarthyist to continue using it against them.
CAMERA cites ISNA as having origins in the Muslim Brotherhood. ISNA has stated in legal documents that it has no part in the organization. But the accusation continues, something the organization and its defenders, among them prominent Jewish leaders and religious figures I interviewed, say is part of a bid to discredit the organization…
As for having Saudi funding…if they do benefit from such funding, it would be worth mentioning, but only once the source in Saudi Arabia was determined. Several U.S. institutions receive funding from Saudi sources, including prominent universities.
Eric Rozenman responds
Dina Kraft’s reply to our letter (spring, 2013), criticizing her article “Jews and Muslims in America: A New Flowering Amid the Tensions” (winter, 2012), misleads readers.
Kraft claims evidence CAMERA cited disputing the Islamic Society of North America’s moderation is “dated and discounted.” Hardly. In the successful 2009 terrorism funding prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a key Muslim Brotherhood list of “our organization and the organizations of our friends” included ISNA.
Kraft makes much of the fact that a judge determined ISNA’s unindicted co-conspirator status in that case should not have been made public. She doesn’t mention that the status was not revoked.
In support of her portrayal of ISNA as mainstream, she says Rabbi Eric Yoffie, past president of the Union for Reform Judaism, spoke at a recent society convention. But so have Holocaust denier Yasir Qadhi and Siraj Wahhaj, Siraj Wahhaj, listed by the U.S. government among “unindicted persons who may be alleged as co-conspirators” in the early 1990s plot lead by the “blind sheik,” Omar Abdel Rahman, to blow up New York City landmarks.
Kraft dismisses CAMERA’s observation that Saudi Arabian money is a key source of ISNA’s support—“if they do benefit from such funding, it would be worth mentioning, but only once the source in Saudi Arabia was determined.” Saudis have spent tens of billions of dollars underwriting “charities throughout the Islamic Diaspora,” according to former Treasury Department general counsel David Aufhauser. They’ve done so to teach “unforgiving, intolerant, uncompromising and austere views” of Islam.
Kraft alludes to “a bid to discredit” ISNA. CAMERA’s interest is in accurate reporting, in context, whether such coverage makes ISNA look good, bad or indifferent. Our objection is to glossing over an organization rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that, despite denials, still hosts individuals and offers for sale publications with extremist views and, according to a recent Gallup survey, speaks for no more than 12 percent of American Muslims.
Washington (D.C.) Director
CAMERA—Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America
Dina Kraft responds:
CAMERA claims it seeks accurate reporting and then goes and repeats its circular arguments and disingenuous statements.
The fact that ISNA turned up on a “key Muslim Brotherhood list of ‘our organization and other organizations of our friends’” seems to be guilt by association twice removed. More to the point, the Muslim Brotherhood can claim whatever it wants. While their claims may be pertinent in gathering information about the Holy Land Foundation (i.e. how the Muslim Brotherhood had aspirations of influencing American Muslims), how on earth is it probative of what ISNA’s status is—why is CAMERA lending credibility to an unverified claim by the Muslim Brotherhood?
During the 2009 trial against the Holy Land Foundation, ISNA and two other Muslim organizations were named as “unindicted co-conspirators,” but what Mr. Rozenman, as someone who would have followed the case closely, chooses to omit, is the murky legal definition of the term and the fact that federal authorities themselves later regretted publishing the names in what was supposed to be a sealed case. Why? Because they knew that unwarranted stigma of ISNA and other organizations would likely follow if their names as such were made public—which is exactly what happened.
The category of unindicted co-conspirators ISNA fell under was the type that the government lists in order to expand the evidence against the group or person it is indicting but whose identity the government works to keep anonymous because the so-called “unindicted co-conspirator” is thought to be innocent of the alleged crime.
ISNA, which has condemned Hamas and Hezbollah terrorism, cooperated with the government in prosecuting the Holy Land Foundation. It’s also worth noting that in November 2005 the Senate Finance Committee issued a report concluding that ISNA had no ties to terrorists.
CAMERA criticizes Saudi funding, but is all Saudi funding to be condemned in blanket terms? CAMERA appears to be suggesting that any money from any Saudi citizen or group to any citizen or group is tainted. Shouldn’t the source of the funding be determined before blacklisting it? I think that is what Harvard and Georgetown universities did, when they, for example, took donations from a “Saudi source,” in this case a prominent businessman. “Saudi” money has also gone to institutions like the Louvre and to South East Asian victims of the Tsunami.
In regards to one of the individuals CAMERA cites as among the many who have addressed ISNA, Yasir Qadhi did make a Holocaust denial statement in 2000 but recanted in 2010 when he and other imams visited Auschwitz and signed a statement decrying the Holocaust and condemning anti-Semitism.
The American Shtetl
Uriel Heilman’s “The American Shtetl” exemplifies good social reportage. It presents communal facts in straightforward fashion, without evaluation and with no bias. Thank you for this excellent report.
Dr. Leo Shatin
Boca Raton, Fla.
Uriel Heilman’s article on “The American Shtetl” is an informative piece about one aspect of ultra-Orthodox Jewish life in America. However, the term “shtetl” is inappropriate in this context. While it is true that the Yiddish was the lingua franca of both the Eastern European shtetl and towns like New Square and Kiryas Joel, no shtetl was 100 percent Jewish, nor did any of them manage to keep the outside world at bay. Indeed, there is a fundamental difference between the two: The European shtetl was an organic creation of hundreds of years of history where Jews maintained a particular Jewish way of life while still interacting with Christians on a daily basis and incorporating (albeit sometimes slowly and reluctantly) elements of the surrounding society and of secular culture into their lives. The Hasidic towns in the United States are artificial creations engineered to isolate their residents from all outside influences and to keep them, as far as possible, from interacting with any others outside their own communities.
Lokey Associate Professor of Judaic Studies, Portland State University
Much of American Jewry came from Eastern Europe to escape the constraints of shtetl life. Among the many was my father. Has common sense been abandoned in exchange for poverty and self-imposed righteousness?