The Center for Jewish History Expands its International Fellowship Program

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011 – 5:39 am

NEW YORK, Oct. 26, 2011 — /PRNewswire/ — The Center for Jewish History, one of the world’s foremost Jewish research and cultural institutions, is pleased to announce the expansion of its international fellowship program to include senior scholars, early career scholars and emerging artists and writers through a new five-year, $750,000 grant from The Vivian G. Prins Foundation.  The grant will support fellowships for those who seek permanent teaching and research positions in North America. The Center’s Prins Program for Emigrating Scholars, Artists and Writers was established in 2010 with an initial grant of $225,000.

The program is designed to help those devoted to advanced study conduct original research in the vast collections of the Center’s five distinguished partners: the American Jewish Historical Society, the American Sephardi Federation, the Leo Baeck Institute, Yeshiva University Museum, and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. The collections include more than 500,000 volumes and 100 million archival documents. This award allows the Center to serve as the gateway for the best and brightest scholars and artists seeking to begin a new professional life in the U.S.

“The generosity of The Vivian G. Prins Foundation, which has now awarded the Center almost $1 million in fellowship grants, will enable the Center to continue serving as a professional resource for scholars from around the globe,” says Michael S. Glickman, COO of the Center. “The Prins award raises the level of supported research to new heights and will go a long way toward supporting our scholarly initiatives.”

As the Center enters its second decade, the institution has increased its efforts at fostering a community of scholars and ideas by attracting diverse thinkers from a multitude of disciplinary backgrounds. In addition to the Prins Program for Emigrating Scholars, Artists and Writers, the Center supports scholars at various levels, including the only National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Scholar Fellowship granted to a Jewish studies institution; graduate and undergraduate research fellowships; a Visiting Scholars Program; and the Steinberg Emerging Jewish Filmmaker Fellowship.

The Center for Jewish History is located at 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011. For information, call 212-294-8301 or log on to or

SOURCE Center for Jewish History

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Counting Jews

On the eve of the Jewish Federation of North America’s annual General Assembly this year, one might expect the release of a national Jewish population study, since it has been 10 years since the last one appeared.

But there will be no such detailed portrait of the demographics of American Jewry unveiled Nov. 6-8 at the GA in Denver, because in the wake of the controversy over the 2000-2001survey, none was commissioned this time around.

You may recall that the report a decade ago said the U.S. Jewish population was at 5.2 million, about 300,000 people less than was reported in 1990, and that intermarriage was up, but only slightly from two decades earlier. The bigger news was the troubles with the report itself, which was plagued by cost over-runs, lost data and sharp disputes among leading Jewish sociologists and demographers about the methodology and merit of its findings.

Partly as a result of the failure of the study, JFNA, already facing difficult financial challenges, opted not to commission another one last year. Life goes on, but experts in the field say the community is being shortsighted — some say “irresponsible” — in not gathering data on the size, whereabouts and attitudes of Jews around the country to benefit communal planning for the future.

At a two-day conference at Brandeis University this week, dozens of the specialists who direct and analyze these studies gathered to discuss the impact of not having this once-a-decade mother lode of Jewish data, and what to do about it. They noted that a number of communities (including New York) are doing local surveys, but suggested that national studies are vital, and need not be as large, expensive and infrequent as they have been over the last half-century. Several experts said these studies should focus less on figuring out how many Jews there are and more on what the behaviors, attitudes, trends and interests are among those they can identify.

Ironically, major communal leaders lay part of the blame on the lack of a national study at the feet of the very Jewish demographers clamoring for one. The leaders say that the demographers, who have a history of sniping at each other’s finding and methods, have undermined the credibility of the extensive and expensive work produced in the past.

The demographers, in turn, insist they would have little to complain about if the quality of the research was higher.

The two sides need to get together and focus forward rather than backward, recognizing the need for up-to-date information about what American Jews are up to, and why.

Pole who spirited Jewish woman from Auschwitz dies

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The young Catholic man spirited his Jewish girlfriend out of Auschwitz in 1944, saving her life. Yet it took 39 years for them to see each other again.

Jerzy Bielecki, a German-speaking Polish inmate at the same Nazi death camp, lived to age 90 and died peacefully in his sleep Thursday at his home in Nowy Targ in southern Poland, his daughter, Alicja Januchowski said Saturday.

Januchowski, a New Yorker, spoke to The Associated Press from Nowy Targ, where she had been with her ailing father.

The Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem awarded Bielecki the Righteous Among the Nations title in 1985 for saving the girlfriend, Cyla Cybulska. It all happened in July 1944, when the 23-year-old Bielecki used his relatively privileged position in Auschwitz to orchestrate a daring escape for both of them.

Bielecki was 19 when the Germans seized him on the false suspicion he was a resistance fighter, and brought him to Auschwitz in April 1940 in the first transport of inmates, all Poles. He was given number 243.

Cybulska, her parents, two brothers and a younger sister were rounded up in January 1943 in the Lomza ghetto in northern Poland and taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Her parents and sister were immediately killed in the gas chambers, but she and her brothers were sent to work.

By September, 22-year-old Cybulska was the only one left alive, with inmate number 29558 tattooed on her left forearm.

They met and their love blossomed, making Bielecki determined to find a way to escape.

From a fellow Polish inmate working at a uniform warehouse, Bielecki secretly got a complete SS uniform and a pass. Then dressed as SS officer, he pretended he was taking a Jewish inmate out of the camp for interrogation. He led Cybulska to a side gate, where a sleepy SS-man let them go through.

The fear of being gunned down himself reverberated through his first steps of freedom.

“I felt pain in my backbone, where I was expecting to be shot,” Bielecki told the AP in an interview in 2010.

For more than a week they hid in the fields during the day and marched during the night, until they reached the house of Bielecki’s uncle. There, they were separated, as the family wanted Bielecki back home in Krakow, and Cybulska was sent to hide with a farm family.

They failed to meet back up after the war.

Bielecki stayed in Poland and settled in Nowy Targ, where he raised a family and worked as the director of a school for bus and car mechanics. Cybulska married a Jewish man, David Zacharowitz, with whom she went to Sweden and then to New York.

Sheer chance allowed them to meet again. While talking with her Polish cleaning woman in 1982, Cybulska related her Auschwitz escape story.

The woman, stunned, said she had heard Bielecki tell the same story on Polish TV. She then helped Cybulska find Bielecki in Poland.

In the summer of 1983, they met at the Krakow airport. He brought 39 red roses, one for each year they had spent apart.

Cybulska died in New York in 2002.

Bielecki is survived by his wife, two daughters, four grandchildren and a great-grandson. A Catholic funeral Mass and burial are to be held in Nowy Targ on Monday.

“He did not think he was a hero, but he was. He will be missed,” said Stanlee Stahl, a vice president at the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous.

Memorial for Jewish chaplains to be dedicated

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — A memorial to 14 Jewish chaplains who died during active military service will be dedicated at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington. The dedication service, scheduled for Monday afternoon, marks the completion of a memorial that will sit side by side to previously existing memorials dedicated to Protestant and Catholic chaplains.

The privately funded memorial received backing earlier this year from a joint Congressional resolution. According to the cemetery, this year marks the 150th anniversary of service by rabbis in the U.S. Armed Forces.

When the USS Dorchester, a U.S. Army troop ship carrying 900 soldiers and civilians, was attacked by the Germans in 1943, a rabbi, a Catholic priest and two Protestant ministers helped soldiers onto lifeboats and handed out life jackets, giving away their own as the ship sank off the coast of Greenland. The four chaplains were seen singing hymns and holding hands until the very end.

Yet Rabbi Alexander Goode was the only one of the Immortal Chaplains, as they came to be known, not honored with a memorial. That is, until now.

On October 24, a ceremony at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia will dedicate the first monument on Chaplains Hill, commemorating Goode and 13 other Jewish chaplains killed on active duty in America’s armed forces.

“We decided that all four needed to be honored,” said the project’s originator, Ken Kraetzer, commander of Squadron 50 of the Sons of the American Legion. Kraetzer was searching for the names of all four lost chaplains at Chaplains Hill when he realized not only that Goode’s name was missing, but also that there was no monument to Jewish chaplains at all.

Of the other 13 chaplains, seven died on active duty in the United States, three in Vietnam and three in World War II. Chaplain Irving Tepper, one of the first soldiers to land in France on D-Day — June 6, 1944 — was killed by a shell less than a year later. Chaplain Morton Singer, a noncombatant volunteer in Israel’s Six Day War of 1967, died while on a mission to conduct Hanukkah services for his men in Vietnam.

While researching the names and stories of these chaplains, Michael Feldberg, then executive director of the American Jewish Historical Society, saw a photo of Chaplain David Sobel and was struck by the resemblance he bore to him.

“David is now frozen in time, 28 years old forever. I am now in my late 60s. He chose to serve his nation, and is gone,” Feldberg told the Forward. “I took a different path and have the honor of keeping his memory alive.”

The new monument will take its place next to three monuments to chaplains of other faiths who gave their lives in service to their country. The first was dedicated in 1926 by a group of chaplains who served in World War I to 23 chaplains who died in that war. In 1981, a memorial to 134 Protestant chaplains was dedicated, and in 1989, a monument to 83 Catholic chaplains who died in World War II and in the Korean and Vietnam wars was created.

Sol Moglen, founder of the Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance, raised $50,000 for the new Jewish memorial from veterans groups, communal organizations and individual donations.

Other champions of the project included the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council director Rabbi Harold Robinson and the Jewish Federations of North America.

The research, fundraising and approval efforts behind the memorial took three years. Though just about everyone acknowledged the need for a memorial to fallen Jewish chaplains on a hill where other faiths were recognized, the approval process was arduous. The chief of chaplains of each military branch had to authorize the final list of 14 chaplains. New York former congressman Anthony Weiner and New York Senator Charles Schumer introduced a joint resolution in the House of Representatives and Senate, respectively, authorizing the monument. The resolution was approved the week before Memorial Day of this year.

Brooklyn-based artist Debora Jackson, who was inspired by the aron kodesh, the ark containing the Torah scrolls, in her childhood synagogue designed the ornate 7-foot-tall memorial. “I wanted it to have a very different and very Jewish feel to it,” Jackson said, emphasizing the monument’s older-looking facade and antique finish. She wanted the monument to fit in with the three older monuments that pay homage to the Protestant and Catholic chaplains.

The JWB insignia of the Star of David on top of the tablets is adorned on either side by two large golden lions of Judah. On the bottom, an inscription taken from King David’s eulogy for King Saul and his son, Jonathan, reads, “They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.”

The public ceremony is expected to draw almost 600 guests, 65 of whom will be the honored chaplains’ family members.

David Engle was only 20 years old when his father, Lt. Col. Meir Engel, died of heart disease while on active duty in Saigon in 1964. Engel was a member of the Haganah in Palestine before moving to the United States, and he was one of the only chaplains to serve during World War II and in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

“It’s very meaningful in that others who are buried or memorialized at Arlington probably knew these chaplains. It’s about time,” David Engle said. “This whole event is bringing together the families to grieve, memorialize and cry as one larger family.”

Vienna’s Jewish museum re-opens with Hollywood exhibit

Vienna’s Jewish Museum re-opens its doors this week after a thorough renovation, with a new exhibit dedicated to the first film studio bosses in Hollywood, many of whom were Jews emigrated from eastern Europe.

“(It is) a lively house, a house that will show that after 1945 in Vienna a Jewish community emerged again, a very lively community, a very diverse community,” director Danielle Spera told journalists at a preview of the refurbished museum Monday.

The museum, housed in a small Viennese palace, retraces the history of the city’s Jewish community, decimated after Nazi Germany’s invasion of Austria in 1938.

The third biggest in Europe in the early 1900s, Vienna’s Jewish community shrank from some 185,000 before 1938 to just a few thousands after the war, following a mass exodus abroad and the extermination of Jews in Nazi death camps.

“Jewish culture was, is and hopefully always will be an integral part of Vienna,” Vienna’s city councillor in charge of culture, Andreas Mailath-Pokorny, said however on Monday.

The first big exhibit at the museum, which will open to the public on Wednesday, is dedicated to the Jewish heritage in Hollywood, from the first studio bosses who were eastern European emigrees — including Paramount founder Adolf Zukor, Samuel Goldwyn of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, or William Fox — to modern movie characters.

Entitled “Bigger than Life: 100 Years of Hollywood, a Jewish experience,” it will run until April 2012.

Bloomberg Dedicates Magen David Adom Center

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg dedicated the landmark Magen David Adom station in Jerusalem in memory of his father.

Bloomberg affixed a mezuzah to the doorpost of the William H. Bloomberg MDA Jerusalem Station on Sunday with the help of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar. The mayor donated the lead gift for the station.

“My family was attracted to Magen David Adom because of its spirit of volunteerism and its unwavering commitment to treat all people equally regardless of race or religion,” Bloomberg said at the dedication ceremony. “Today is a great day for Magen David Adom, its supporters, my family and the people of Jerusalem.”

A new five-story wing was added to the original building, which dates from 1963 and was upgraded and renovated. Staff rooms, lounges and offices also were renovated.

The building houses a new blood donation center, a pre-hospital training center, a visitors’ center, a conference center and a new Jerusalem dispatch center.

Marc Lebow, the national chair of American Friends of Magen David Adom, said in lauding Bloomberg, .”While your leadership in the business and civic realms are well known, today’s dedication is proof that your legacy of giving and helping others, which was imparted to you by your father, extends far beyond New York and into the hearts of each and every person in Israel who will benefit from the services of Magen David Adom and this station.”

More than 1.2 million people live in the region covered by the new MDA Jerusalem Station, in addition to the daily influx of government and other workers, tourists and students. Some 1,000 MDA staff and volunteers serve Jerusalem and its surroundings.

German Casino Hands Dutch Old Master to Jewish Dealer’s Heirs

By Catherine Hickley

Oct. 24 (Bloomberg) — A German casino will return a Dutch Old Master to the heirs of a Jewish art dealer persecuted by the Nazis and forced to flee Germany more than 70 years ago.

“The Masters of the Goldsmith Guild in Amsterdam in 1701,” by Juriaen Pool II, was in the Dusseldorf art gallery of Max Stern until 1937 — the year Stern was forced to liquidate his gallery and flee Germany, according to Stern’s estate. The painting moved to a gallery in Wiesbaden and was bought by Spielbank Bad Neuenahr GmbH, located in a spa town south of Bonn, after World War II.

The estate is managed by three universities: Concordia and McGill in Montreal and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The Pool painting is only the ninth of about 400 missing works to be recovered. The handover will take place in a ceremony tomorrow at the Amsterdam Museum in the Dutch capital.

“We are in ongoing discussions with a number of other German organizations, including some major museums who also possess Stern works, and remain hopeful that more good news will follow,” Frederick Lowry, president and vice-chancellor of Concordia University, said in the statement sent by e-mail.

Stern, the proprietor of the Dusseldorf Galerie Julius Stern, was forced by the Nazis to liquidate his gallery and auction the contents — more than 200 paintings, many of them Old Masters — in a sale managed by the Cologne auction house Lempertz in 1937. Though the Pool painting was still in Stern’s possession in 1937, it wasn’t part of that sale.

Sale Under Duress

The exact details of Stern’s transaction with the Galerie Heinemann in Wiesbaden aren’t known, Clarence Epstein, director of special projects and cultural affairs at Concordia University, wrote in an e-mail.

“The evidence suggests that Stern sold the painting to Heinemann as part of his liquidation efforts, hence in a sale made under duress,” Epstein wrote.

Stern fled Germany shortly after the Lempertz auction and reached Paris in December 1937 with nothing but a suitcase. He set up a new art dealership, first in Britain and then later in Montreal. He died in 1987 without children, leaving the bulk of his estate to the universities.

In 2002, the colleges began a campaign to recover the lost art, creating the Max Stern Art Restitution Project, administered by Concordia. The Dutch government returned an oil painting by Jan Brueghel the Younger, “Allegory of Life and Water,” to the Max Stern estate last November.

Pool (1665-1745) was a portrait artist who became court painter to the Elector of Palatinate Johann Wilhelm.

–Editors: Mark Beech, Jim Ruane.

To contact the writer on the story: Catherine Hickley in Berlin at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

Reflections on Gilad Shalit and the sorrow of irreclaimable time

Gilad Shalit was in captivity for five years, frozen in irreclaimable time; five years lost to him and to his family; so much potential for productivity, for love, and for life – suspended in state, in a dark corner of the Gaza Strip. By Rabbi Joel Seltzer

It was a year filled with the indescribable joys of Torah, family and friends, while living in the modern, vibrant and endlessly complex State of Israel.

When our time in Israel was nearly up, we decided to treat ourselves to one last trip – a belated anniversary present to ourselves. And so in June of 2006 we traveled to Tiberias for a weekend of biking, hiking and swimming in the Kinneret.

As we were packing to leave, we heard the news: a soldier had been kidnapped at the Kerem Shalom border crossing, his name was Gilad Shalit, and no one knew what would ever become of him.

Unbelievably, that was over five years ago.

Whenever I have thought about, and prayed for Gilad Shalit over these past five years, I have found myself reflecting on the unspeakable sorrow which comes from the realization that time is irreclaimable. Looking back on his time in captivity, I couldn’t help but recall what has happened to my wife and myself during those five years.

We returned from Israel to America where I completed my final two years as a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. We rescued a 12 pound puppy from an Animal Shelter who is now a four-year-old behemoth. We moved to Providence, Rhode Island where I got a job as a congregational rabbi; and over the past three years I have given countless divrei torah, presided over many joyous baby namings and had the profound honor of burying those whom our congregation has lost.

We bought a house, we leased a car. The lease was up, we bought a new one. And most importantly, during these five years we were privileged to bring two beautiful daughters into this world; a two-and-a-half-year-old, and a five-month-old.

All this and more has occurred in our lives, and in everyone else’s lives, since that morning of Sunday, June 25th 2006; except for Gilad. All the while Gilad has been in captivity – frozen in irreclaimable time. Five years sitting in his cell. Five years lost to him and to his family; so much potential for productivity, for love, and for life – suspended in state, in a dark corner of the Gaza Strip.

The news of his negotiated release has brought incredible joy to the entire People of Israel, as well as the State of Israel. But we know that although he returns, he will never be able to reclaim those lost five years. That is what the terrorists have taken from him; something that can never be returned.

As part of our morning prayers on Mondays and Thursdays, we remind God that “All the House of Israel are brothers, whether they suffer oppression or imprisonment, whether at sea or on the dry land.” And after reminding God of the unity and resolve of the Jewish people, then we pray “May God have compassion upon them, taking them from confinement to freedom, from darkness to light, from enslavement to redemption, now and speedily – and let us say, Amen.”

In honor of Gilad Shalit and his long overdue return home, and in recognition of the solemnity of irreclaimable time, I say, Amen.

Rabbi Joel Seltzer is a rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in Providence, Rhode Island.

Sukkah City


Washington University in St. Louis (WUSL) is preparing to host Sukkah City 2011, a design competition similar to the one held in New York last year. The theme of this year’s Sukkah City will be “Defining and Defying Boundaries”, asking participants to focus on the material, cultural or metaphorical boundaries that may influence our lives and define the ways that we relate to an increasingly global society.

Artists, architects and designers of all faiths are invited to submit their designs, with 10 to be selected for construction by the competition panel. The panel will be diverse as well, including environmental designer Mitchell Joachim, architect Carol Ross Barney, Rabbi Hyim Shafner, and Bruce Lindsey, a Professor for Community Collaboration at WUSL.

Rabbi Andrew Kastner of the St. Louis Hillel student organization said of the competition that “the biblical narrative of the Sukkah commemorates the temporary dwellings of the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt. But it also represents universal ideas of transience and permanence, as expressed through architecture and ritual.”

Sukkah City 2011


Washington University in St. Louis (WUSL) is preparing to host Sukkah City 2011, a design competition similar to the one held in New York last year.  The theme of this year’s Sukkah City will be “Defining and Defying Boundaries”, asking participants to focus on the material, cultural or metaphorical boundaries that may influence our lives and define the ways that we relate to an increasingly global society.

Artists, architects and designers of all faiths are invited to submit their designs, with 10 to be selected for construction by the competition panel.  The panel will be diverse as well, including environmental designer Mitchell Joachim, architect Carol Ross Barney, Rabbi Hyim Shafner, and Bruce Lindsey, a Professor for Community Collaboration at WUSL.

Rabbi Andrew Kastner of the St. Louis Hillel student organization said of the competition that “the biblical narrative of the Sukkah commemorates the temporary dwellings of the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt.  But it also represents universal ideas of transience and permanence, as expressed through architecture and ritual.”