The Yad Vashem Holocaust museum has been ranked fourth among the 25 best museums in the world by TripAdvisor, a leading travel website that crowdsources criticism and reactions of tourists from around the world, Israel Hayom reported.

“Very moving and inspirational, should be a lesson to us all, may it never happen again,” one visitor to TripAdvisor wrote. “We should never forget what this nation went through.”


Antisemitic graffiti at Yad Vashem


JERUSALEM – Unidentified vandals overnight Monday scrawled anti-Semitic and Nazi-related graffiti on the walls of Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust memorial and museum.

The graffiti read: “Hitler, thank you for the great Holocaust. Only because of it did we receive a state from the UN” and “If Hitler hadn’t existed, the Zionists would have invented him.”

Police suspect the graffiti, which was written in Hebrew, was the work of ultra-Orthodox Jewish anti-Zionists. Tipping them off was the fact that one of the lines of graffiti condemned the State of Israel as “the spiritual Auschwitz of Sephardic Jewry.”

While anti-Zionist sentiment is typically expressed by ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews, many ultra-Orthodox Sephardic Jews see their Ashkenazi brothers as elitists who unfairly impose their religious interpretations and traditions upon Israel’s religious community.

The incident at Yad Vashem again highlights that there are many Jews living in Israel that refuse to see their nation’s rebirth as a fulfillment of God’s Word, and that there remain deep rifts in the Jewish community that 64 years of statehood has failed to remedy.

Yad Vashem honoring Polish Righteous Among the Nations

On Wednesday December 21, 2011, Yad Vashem will hold a ceremony posthumously honoring Wojciech Wołoszczuk, as Righteous Among the Nations from Poland.

His daughter, Janina Wołoszczuk, will come from Poland to accept the medal and certificate of honor on his behalf. The event will take place in the presence of the Polish Ambassador to Israel H.E. Agnieszka Magdziak Miszewska, the survivor Frances Schaff of the United States, family and friends.

A memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance will be held at 11:00 a.m. followed by the awarding of the medal and certificate in the Synagogue at Yad Vashem. The events will take place in English, Hebrew and Polish

Polish righteous man to be honored

On Sunday Yad Vashem will hold a ceremony posthumously honoring Jerzy Ponczynski, as Righteous Among the Nations from Poland. His children, from Israel and abroad, will accept the medal and certificate of honor on his behalf. The event will take place in the presence of the children of the Righteous and the survivor, Polish Ambassador to Israel H.E. Agnieszka Magdziak Miszewska, family and friends.

A memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance will be held at 11:00 a.m. followed by the awarding of the medal and certificate in the Synagogue at Yad Vashem.

At the beginning of 1942, Ita Zabara found herself wandering between Kiev and Lvov. Her husband had disappeared, her one-and-a-half year old daughter Svetlana was taken away by a Ukranian man in an effort to rescue the toddler and her parents and brother were deported to the Caucasus region.

She was now alone in the world.

Finding herself at a train station, but uncertain where to go, she was forced by the Germans onto a train headed for Babi Yar. When the train approached Rovno, Ita jumped from the train. She then approached a young Pole who was fishing on the banks of the river and asked him for help. She confessed to him that she was Jewish and being pursued.

Luckily the young man, Jerzy Ponczynsky, came to her aid.

Initially, Jerzy hid Ita in the basement of his parents, keeping her concealed from his mother and father. When his parents left the house, Jerzy would bring her upstairs so that she could wash up.

Ita couldn’t remain in her hiding place for too long and Jerzy moved her to his aunt’s home. Later, when denouncements of Jerzy’s aunt for hiding Jews began to circulate, Ita and Jerzy were once again forced to leave. Ita and Jerzy spent the remainder of the war in the ghettos in Rovno and Czestochowa where they survived until liberation.

Jerzy and Ita married and had eight children. Seventeen years after Ita parted from her daughter Svetlana, the two were reunited.

Ita passed away in 1987. Before his death in 1989, Jerzy told his children that they should not remain in Poland, and that as Jews they should move to Israel, where six of them now live.

Righteous nun to be honored

JERUSALEM – On Thursday Yad Vashem will hold a ceremony posthumously honoring Mother Marie-Veronique of Belgium as Righteous Among the Nations.

Mother Marie-Véronique was mother superior of the Sacred Heart of Mary convent in La Hulpe, Belgium. Sister Marie-Justine, who lived in the convent during the period of rescue, and Sister Paule will accept the medal and certificate of honor on behalf of the late mother superior. The event will take place in the presence of the Ambassador of Belgium to Israel H.E. Bénédicte Frankinet. The medal and certificate of honor will be presented by Irena Steinfeldt, Director of the Department of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem.

A memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance will be held at 11:00 a.m. followed by the awarding of the medal and certificate in the Synagogue at Yad Vashem.

Mother Marie-Veronique, née Philomene Smeers, served as mother superior of the Sacred Heart of Mary convent in La Hulpe, Belgium from 1929 until 1951. In May 1940, the Germans invaded Belgium and in the summer of 1942 the deportation of the Jews to the extermination camps began. During the German occupation, Mother Marie-Veronique sheltered Jewish girls in the convent, rescuing them from deportation to the death camps.

Simone Suzanne Berman née Najman was born in Brussels in 1931. In 1942, when the deportations began, the Najman family went into hiding. After a year, Simone’s parents decided to ask the nuns to shelter her in the convent. Simone’s father remained in hiding during the war, but her mother died on January 1, 1944. After liberation, Simone immigrated to the United States.

Ilse Frumer née Steiner was born in Vienna in 1929 and moved to Brussels with her parents. After Ilse’s father was deported to Auschwitz in January 1942, her mother asked Mother Marie-Véronique to accept her daughter into the convent’s dormitory. Ilse’s mother and father were both murdered during the Holocaust and Ilse remained at the convent until 1950 when she was 21 years old.

Conditions during the war were very difficult. During the winter, the nuns chopped down trees from their garden in order to heat the convent. Although food was scarce, the nuns shared what little they had with the girls under their care.

On December 21, 2010, the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem decided to award Mother Merie-Véronique the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

Jerusalem orchestra to perform Holocaust survivor’s words at Yad Vashem

On September 8, 2011, a unique concert featuring the stirring words of Holocaust survivors, performed by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra – IBA, soloists and choirs from Israel and the United States, and conducted by Gil Shohat will take place at Yad Vashem. The concert will take place in the presence of President Shimon Peres, Holocaust survivors and their families, and official State guests, including members of the Diplomatic Corps. It is the Israeli premiere of the piece.

Created by composer Dr. Lawrence Siegel and named for the Jewish prayer for the dead, Kaddish – I am Here conveys the stories of Holocaust survivors in their own words, in their own languages, providing a window into their experiences. According to Dr. Siegel, “Because of the verbatim use of testimony, the messages are an authentic and accurate reading of the feeling and thoughts of some of the survivors of the Holocaust.”

Kaddish consists of fifteen movements for chorus, soloists and orchestra based on firsthand accounts of Holocaust survivors. In words and music, it illustrates a specific moment in history while illuminating the Holocaust as a profound human tragedy whose repercussions are still felt today. The piece moves from vignettes about life in central Europe before the Holocaust, through poignant, individual descriptions of the darkest of days, and ends with the resiliency of the survivors. One of the key movements is a litany of thousands of names of Holocaust victims.

“I had a little sister, five years younger than myself. / Her name was Raysha. / My daughter’s name is Raysha…/ My little sister was 8 years old. / A German officer came, he tore her away from my mother And he pushed her to the left side of the field. / My mother said to my father, / We need to go with Raysha. / I started crying / That I don’t want to go to that side. / That I want to live, that I want my parents with me. / And my parents stayed with me. /My little sister went to the left side of the field.”
— From Kaddish – I am Here
Kaddish was commissioned by the Cohen Center for Holocaust Studies at Keene State College, Keene, NH, in honor of its 25th anniversary. The World Premiere of Kaddish took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on November 15, 2008, by VocalEssence, under the baton of Music Director Philip Brunelle. It has since been performed to great acclaim, notably by the Houston Symphony Orchestra, in partnership with Holocaust Museum Houston, in the premiere of a full symphonic version.

The September concert at Yad Vashem’s Warsaw Ghetto Square, is part of Yad Vashem’s ongoing activities to commemorate the Holocaust through the arts. Two years ago, Leonard Bernstein’s Kaddish with a libretto by Samuel Pisar was performed by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and smaller concerts are held periodically. The event is open by invitation only; invitations for Holocaust survivors are available through Yad Vashem at confirmation2@yadvashem.org.il .

Memorial service scheduled at Yad Vashem

Tomorrow, Thursday, August 4, Yad Vashem will mark 69 years since the deportation to Treblinka of Janusz Korczak, Stefa Wilczynska, and the children of their orphanage, from the Warsaw Ghetto. The memorial ceremony will be held at 17:00 at Janusz Korczak Square at Yad Vashem. As part of a workshop to take place during the course of the day, counselors of the HaMachanot HaOlim youth movement will hear the testimony of Holocaust survivor Yitzhak Belfer, who resided in Korczak’s orphanage in Warsaw.

Belfer (88), Janusz Korczak’s student who will participate in the ceremony, said, “I had a great love for Dr. Korczak. I was seven years old when I arrived at the orphanage, and was granted the opportunity to be educated under him for eight of the most important years of my life. The doctor walked among us like any other person, never patronizing – spreading love and concern for the children’s needs. In the orphanage we learned to believe in people, in the good inclination that exists within us.”.

“Just as the sea gives a child a toy – a boat, so the wind has to give him a kite,” — Janusz Korczak, The Religion of the Child

At the conclusion of the ceremony HaMachanot HaOlim counselors will fly 70 kites, .in Janusz Korczak’s unique worldview, in order to convey to the world a message of dignity, love and rights equality.

Janusz Korczak was the pen name of Henryk Goldszmit, a Polish-born doctor, author and educator. Born in Warsaw to an assimilated Jewish family, Korczak dedicated his life to caring for children, particularly orphans. He believed that children should always be listened to and respected, and this belief was reflected in his work. He wrote several books for and about children, and broadcast a children’s radio program. In 1912 Korczak became the director of a Jewish orphanage in Warsaw. When World War II broke out in 1939, Korczak first refused to accept the German occupation and heed their regulations (consequently spending time in jail). However, when the Jews of Warsaw were forced to move into a ghetto, Korczak refocused his efforts on the children in his orphanage. Despite offers from Polish friends to hide him on the “Aryan” side of the city, Korczak refused to abandon the children.

Stefa Wilczynska was born in 1886 in Poland and completed her studies at the University of Liège, Belgium. In 1909, she met Korczak and the two began working together. When World War I began, Korczak was recruited and Stefa remained in charge of running the orphanage, which had expanded and now housed some 150 children. In 1935, she visited Eretz Israel and lived at Ein Harod until 1939. With the Nazi occupation, the members of Ein Harod arranged for her the possibility of leaving Poland, but she turned it down and moved to the ghetto along with Dr. Korczak and the children.

On August 5, 1942, during a 2-month wave of deportations from the ghetto, the Nazis rounded up Korczak, Wilczynska and the 200 children of the orphanage. They marched in rows to the Umschlagplatz with Korczak in the lead. He and Stefa never abandoned the children, even to the very end. Korczak, Wilczynska and the children were sent to Treblinka, where they were all murdered.