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Holocaust survivor – and great boxer, Harry Haft

Harry Haft – Holocaust survivor…& fighter!

By MARTIN ZEILIG Harry Haft Survivor of Auschwitz, Challenger of Rocky Marciano by Alan Scott Haft is the firsthand testimony of the author’s father, Harry Haft , “a Holocaust survivor with a singular story of endurance, desperation, and unrequited love,” noted an earlier commentary on the book.

 

“Harry Haft was a sixteen-year-old Polish Jew when he entered a concentration camp in 1944,” says online material about Haft. “Forced to fight other Jews in bare-knuckle bouts for the perverse entertainment of SS officers, Haft quickly learned that his own survival depended on his ability to fight and win. Ultimately escaping the camp, Haft left an embittered and pugnacious young man. Determined to find freedom, Haft traveled to America and began a career as a professional boxer, quickly finding success using his sharp instincts and fierce confidence.

“In a historic battle, Haft fights in a match with Rocky Marciano, the future undefeated heavyweight champion of the world. Haft’s boxing career takes him into the world of such boxing legends as Rocky Graziano, Roland La Starza, and Artie Levine, and he reveals new details about the rampant corruption at all levels of the sport. Harry Haft is an embattled survivor, challenging the reader’s capacity to understand suffering and find compassion for an antihero whose will to survive threatens his own humanity. Haft’s account, at once dispassionate and deeply absorbing, is an extraordinary story and an invaluable contribution to Holocaust literature.”

Now, the story has been made into a major motion picture.

The biographical movie, Harry Haft, is directed by Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Wag the Dog, and numerous other movies), and stars Ben Foster as the title character. The cast also includes Danny DeVito, Vicky Krieps, Peter Sarsgaard, and John Leguizamo, notes Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database. The movie will be released sometime this year on a streaming service.

Alan Haft, a retired lawyer in Albuquerque New Mexico, agreed to conduct an interview with The Jewish Post & News about his father, the book and the upcoming movie. It was done via email. 

JP&N: What prompted you to write the book about your father?

Alan Haft: Ever since I was a college student, my father had been asking me to write the story of his life. I did not want to. I did not want to hear any of his excuses for his abusive behavior, experienced by me, my brother and sister, and mother.

But, in 2003, he was diagnosed with lung cancer – and he expressed genuine remorse for his treatment of his family.   Although his memory was slipping, I felt it was the last opportunity to learn what made him who he was.

It took several weeks to record his story, and months to write. It reads like a journal, hampered by his inability to express himself and failing memory.

JP&N: What was your relationship like with your father?

AH: My relationship with my father was torturous. As a boy I was forced to work at an early age at his fruit and vegetable stand (pushcarts) on Blake Ave. in Brooklyn, then in various fruit and vegetable stores he had in African American neighborhoods.

My mother was American, and my father was a “refugee”. He could not read or write, so he could not help me with my homework, or throw a baseball and have a catch. My discipline was brutal beatings, and the belt was fast to come off his pants.

I was under constant pressure to get good grades, without any help – and since he was known in our neighborhood as ‘Harry the Fighter,’ all the other kids took pleasure in beating me up. If I lost a fight, even with someone years older, I’d get beat up again by him at home. My mother also suffered physical and emotional abuse. He was always out at night, either gambling or chasing women. I often slept with a bottle under my pillow in case he came back drunk and wanted to hurt me.

He had terrible nightmares, and a raging temper which was easy to set off. He threatened suicide all the time, scaring me half to death, forcing me to cry and beg him not to. 

JP&N: I guess, then, that your father wasn’t a religious man?

AH: He lost his faith in God in the camps, and although he grew up in a Hassidic household, he always expressed his disdain for religion. Strangely enough, I never went to Hebrew school, but a Bar Mitzvah was important, so I read the English transliteration of the Torah.

JP&N: Writing the book must have been an emotionally wrenching experience?

AH: I learned about what his life was like as a boy in Poland before the war.   What surprised me about his Holocaust experience was the number of civilians, in addition to the other fighters, that he had to kill to survive.

    

When my mother died I wrote him this letter, but I had no place to mail it to.

September 30, 2019

Dear Popsie,

You’ve been gone nearly 12 years, and I miss not having a father. Growing up, you beat me, for my childish misbehavior.   The rage you had inside, you often took out on me. I feared your very presence.   You broke furniture and punched out windows – abused mom to no end.   Despite the abuse, mom always protected you – excused your behavior because of your “background.” I could not excuse you, until I learned what that background was. I was ashamed of you. You could not read or write. You spoke broken English with a thick accent – and had those green numbers on your arm.

     I wish I knew then what I know now. You suffered terribly at the hands of the Nazis. You saw horror, and were forced to participate in it. After you told me all about your ordeal, what you had to do just to live another day, it helped me understand why you were who you were and are who you are. I now see how sorry you are for the abuse –

How can anyone judge you? They call you a holocaust survivor – but does anyone really survive. It has been said that the Nazi’s murdered your soul.  

Popsie, I have spent my later years trying to make the world better for you. Your story was published by Syracuse University Press, you were inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, there is now a major motion picture about your life; I know that you would have been happy that I made you famous.

Despite the physical and psychological abuse – I would want you to know I forgive you.   Mom died this summer. She was the angel sent by God to care for you.

Now it’s your turn to take care of her.

Love,

Alan

 

JP&N: What was the public’s reaction when the hardcopy version of your book was released some years ago?

AH: After the book was published in 2006 his story took on a life of its own. Strangers were putting “movie teasers” on the internet. It was republished in Germany. Reinhard Kleist, a renowned German artist, turned it into a Graphic Novel.

It has been translated into German, Italian, English, Bulgarian, Portuguese, French, Greek, Indonesian, Czech, Serbian, Hebrew, Spanish, Chinese and Macedonian. In 2017 an award winning screenplay was written by Justine Gillmer, and it attracted the attention of Barry Levinson.

I read the screenplay and loved it. But aside from approving the treatment, I had no role in the production.

JP&N: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

AH: I have not seen the movie, but I was shown a 5 minute clip and it was awesome. Ben Foster, had to play my father from age 16 – late 30’s. He lost 60 pounds to play the role in the Camps, had to buff up to fight Roland La Starza and Rocky Marciano, then play my father as an out of shape late 30’s.

Filming was completed last summer, and was to open in theaters this winter, but COVID- 19 has forced them to sell it to a streaming service, like Netflix or Amazon. It should be available this year.

Harry Haft Survivor of Auschwitz, Challenger of Rocky Marciano , 208 pages, is published by  Syracuse University Press, and is available in paperback for $14.95 US.

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Features

Chuck & Carol Faiman – a “Fien” team

Carol & Chuck Faiman

By GERRY POSNER Take two Jewish kids – a boy and a girl from the north end of Winnipeg, have them grow up in the 1950s, and you would probably be well familiar with their following the well-worn path of marriage, raising a family, professional success, and a continued connection with Manitoba. That pattern would well describe Charles or, as he is better known – Chuck, and Carol Faiman.

Carol was a Fien, daughter of Sophie and Harry Fien. Chuck was the son of Bessie and Max Faiman. Carol was a graduate of places well known to Winnipeggers, as in Champlain and Luxton Schools, St. John’s High School and the University of Manitoba, where she received a B.A. Later, she did post-graduate work in vocational rehabilitation counselling. As well, Carol has a well-known passion for art, stemming in no small part from classes she took in art history at the University of Winnipeg and later at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Chuck’s parents, Max and Bessie Faiman, were part of a core group who founded the Talmud Torah Hebrew Day School, which Chuck attended. He was also a student at Machray School and, like so many other north enders, St. John’s High School. Hard though it may be to believe, he graduated high school at 15. By 22, he already had an M.D. degree.

He trained in endocrinology at the University of Manitoba Medical School, the University of Illinois, and later at the Mayo Clinic. Returning to Winnipeg in 1968, Chuck Faiman’s career took off as he became a Professor of Medicine and Physiology and later the head of the Endocrinology Laboratory. During his tenure at the hospital, one year Chuck took a sabbatical leave with his family at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel.

In 1992, Chuck Faiman accepted an offer to become Chairman of the Department of Endocrinology at the Cleveland Clinic. At that time, all the family knew about Cleveland was that it was in Ohio and that they had a baseball team there. Five years later, the Faimans became US citizens and, to this day, hold dual citizenship. During the time when Chuck was growing the department, he had the opportunity to look after heads of state, crown princes and the Sheikh of the United Arab Emirates, where he also provided medical consultations and teaching. (It occurs to me that given Chuck’s connection, maybe he can persuade the Sheikh or his colleagues to consider taking into The United Arab Emirates some of the people floundering in Gaza.)

Chuck was an active player in his field, and is still involved in teaching and as a consultant in the department. He was honoured to receive an award as a Master of the American College of Endocrinology.
Carol also had careers, both in Winnipeg and in Cleveland. In Winnipeg, she worked as a vocational rehabilitation counsellor and ergonomist for the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities. She did not miss a beat when she moved to Cleveland, where she worked in physical therapy at the Cleveland Clinic with patients suffering from occupational injuries. She is now retired.

Now, not be overlooked is that the Faimans are a team. They just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in June 2023. They have three sons, all of whom were raised in Winnipeg: Barton, an MBA graduate of the Asper School of Business and his wife Michelle are still residents of Winnipeg. Gregg, a graduate of the University of Manitoba Medical School, trained with his father in endocrinology at the Cleveland Clinic – sort of a medical version of Gordie and Mark Howe and Bobby and Brett Hull in the hockey world. He and his wife Karrie have three children. Matthew, another U of M Medical School graduate, trained at the Cleveland Clinic in Internal Medicine. He and his wife Beth have one son. All the Faimans remain staunch Blue Bomber and Jets fans.

The Faimans were, and are still, very active in their community, both in their synagogue and other areas. For those readers who can go back that far, Chuck Faiman was largely involved in the amalgamation of the Talmud Torah and the Peretz Schools, not to overlook his term as president of Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate. That active participation continued in Cleveland with the Cleveland Federation.
Carol served on the Board of Rosh Pina Synagogue, as it was then known, and then in Cleveland as a board member at Park Synagogue. Moreover, Carol initiated a programme, which she ran for 14 years, for the National Council of Jewish Women at the Cleveland Museum of Art. For over 15 years the Faimans have also been regular attendees at courses offered by the Siegal College of Jewish Studies, a division of Case Western University.

What also keeps the Faimans very happy is the renewal of their Winnipeg roots each year when they return to the family cottage at West Hawk Lake. There is also a Winnipeg reunion of a different sort each winter in Florida. Likely what sets the Faimans apart from many other people who have moved away is that, although they do maintain strong connections to their history and friends back in Winnipeg, they have integrated well into the Cleveland community, even at an older age when they moved there.

So, for anyone who knows them, the recognition and success the Faimans have earned is well deserved.

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Features

Debut novel from Montreal’s Ben Gonshar follows in the mould of Phillip Roth

Ben Gonshor/cover of The Book of Izzy

Ben Gonshor is an award-winning writer, actor, musician and entrepreneur. His play, “When Blood Ran Red,” won the David and Clare Rosen Memorial International Play Contest at the National Yiddish Theatre in New York. 
Now, with his debut novel, The Book of Izzy, Gonshor follows the likes of Phillip Roth in how The Book of Izzy is a captivating modern take on Jewish cultural touchstones and heritage.
“The Book of Izzy is a story about a man trying to find his own place between two worlds as he reckons with letting go of his painful past to focus on creating a fulfilling present. In the process, Izzy embarks on a fanciful, romantic voyage that not only forces him to come to terms with his Jewish identity, but to also confront the mystifying bird that holds the key to preserving the past and ensuring the survival of his heritage.
“Izzy is a writer who’s found himself in a series of downward spirals; between his recently failed love life, his faltering career as both a wedding planner and a novelist, and an ever-looming mental breakdown, he’s at his wit’s end. 
“Filled to the brim with wit, candid discussions about navigating life with a mental illness, and an engaging cast of characters, The Book of Izzy is a captivating modern take on Jewish cultural touchstones and heritage.”


Following is an excerpt from The Book of Izzy:
“Hi, I’m Sue-Ann,” the twenty-something waitress said to me, extending a hand forthrightly and with the other lifted a shot glass, clinked it with Luba’s and downed it with a “L’khaim” that made you pay attention.
“Doubtful,” I thought to myself and immediately began calculating that the combination of brown bottle curls and olive skin combined with breasts and hips that curved in a way my bubbe would have approved of, didn’t add up to Sue-Ann. Then again, the piercing blue eyes and nose that would have survived a Gestapo roundup, suggested I could have been dead wrong.
I wasn’t.
“Sue-Ann, shmuann!” Luba admonished her, then looked to me while pouring herself another shot. “Her name’s Soreh,” she said while pointing insistently to her new friend then drank, ripped a piece of bread from the loaf and tossed it in her mouth and proceeded to introduce me.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t get that?” Sue-Ann said re Luba’s unintelligible attempt to say my name in mid-chew.
“I’m Isaiah,” I introduced myself. “Friends call me Izzy.”
“Itzikl,” Luba offered with a giggle.
“ALubable!” Sue Ann said in that patronizing way common among dog-lovers when inquiring about a breed they’ve never seen around the run. “And so Jewish…I like that,” she purred then knowingly struck a pose that emphasized her personalities, while simultaneously resting her right palm on the flesh of its adjoining hip that now introduced itself into the conversation, teasing a hint of color that I imagined made for something interesting further below. She then capped it off with a smile that revealed two perfectly formed dimples on either side, the kind so charming as to inspire a Rumshinksy tune.
“You didn’t drink your shot,” she reproached me playfully, pointing at the offending glass on the table that I knew better than to touch. “How about a beer?” she suggested with pride, “we brew in house.”
“Sure,” I answered, still somewhat sensory overloaded. “But nothing too hoppy, I’m not into drinking flowers.”
“Double IPA coming right up!” she said, clocking my narishkeit then brushed her hand expertly on my shoulder as she turned to leave. “You’re right, he’s cute,” she said to Luba, then winked in my direction before heading off toward the bar.
“Let me guess,” I began to ask Luba, who looked at me with a Cheshire grin on her face that told me everything I needed to know: “She’s Leah,” I said, referencing the lead female character in The Dybbuk.
Her giggle this time was more of an outburst of joy, as she clapped her hands near to her face and rocked back and forth happily, like another bet she made was about to pay off.
“Where’d you find her?” I asked, gazing in the direction of the bar where Sue-Ann and her pals were huddled and looking right back at us.
“I didn’t, she found me,” Luba answered and waved in their direction. “I like her. We’ve been spending a lot of time together.”
“Clearly,” I said and returned my attention back to the table. “She’s an actress?”
“Nope.”
“So why is she playing Leah?” I asked somewhat incredulously. Mind you, not that that it was any of my business but, knowing full well the chops required for the part, it seemed a fair question.
“She read for me, she feels the character deeply.”
“She speaks Yiddish?”
“Nope,” Luba answered again, with not an iota of concern in her voice.
“I don’t get it,” I said and continued, dumfounded: “You want me to play opposite someone who doesn’t speak Yiddish and on top of that you don’t even know if she can act?”
“I don’t know if she can act?!” she guffawed, repeating my question back to me aloud as if to make me hear how dumb it sounded. “What she just did naturally in that moment,” she continued, now more earnestly while gesturing with her finger in a circular motion as if to summarize a scene that had just played out at the table, “is more than some actors learn to do with a lifetime of training.”
“What do you mean?”
She didn’t answer, but cocked her head to the side instead and threw me a look like, again, I should have thought before I spoke.
“What?!” I said incredulously and could feel my cheeks starting to flush.
“She had you mesmerized,” she answered with a smile then drank another shot and tossed a piece of bread in her mouth.
“No she didn’t,” I lied.
Luba said nothing as Sue-Ann had now returned with my beer, a basket of gluten free tortilla chips and an assortment of cheeses, each of which she proceeded to describe as an award winning artisanal creation sourced from her friends at farms nearby, without specifying whether the pals she was referring to were the farmers or their animals cuz these days, you know, it could go either way. Regardless, as she side-straddled a chair that she’d pulled in from a nearby table and invited us to dig in, I thought better than to comment on the fact that without a quality goat on the cutting board, which admittedly was artfully presented along with an assortment of dried fruit and a delightfully sweet onion tartinade, what she put on the table was a whole lot of lactose intolerance.

The Book of Izzy

By Ben Gonshor

AOS Publishing

Publication date: May 2024

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Features

Online Casinos: Why Are They So Interesting?

If you’re someone who likes to spend most of their time online, you’ve probably come across different types of entertainment. One form that gives you a good adrenaline bump is online casinos. Like with any kind of entertainment, there are good sides and bad sides to it.

The majority of online casinos are not expensive, and there are reasons they’re so popular and becoming more popular each day. Of course, some casinos offer 150 free spins for $1 deposit, but there are some things you should watch out for as well.

Good Sides of Gambling

Before we jump into the world of online casinos, let’s discuss gambling in general. Can we really say that there are good sides to gambling? Why not make it a little debate, let’s see what are the arguments for gambling in general:

  • It’s entertaining: There’s no doubt that it’s entertaining because you can feel the adrenaline of uncertainty and the rush when you’re about to win something. It can be a good game.
  • There are economic benefits: Of course, if you do win something, the type of game and the type of stakes can be different, so the economic benefits can be quite good. That’s a good argument for it.


It’s social: You can talk at most games, whether it’s a bet on a soccer match, a poker game, blackjack, or roulette, you’ll get a chance to socialize and communicate with others playing the same game.
Skill showcasing: Apart from spins where you’re just waiting to see if you hit the jackpot, some games require more than luck. Poker takes considerable skill to win, and you can be that hotshot who keeps winning and wins big.
Can be charitable: It’s not uncommon for the proceeds from different gambling games to go to some charity. So, even though it might be something where you can lose your money, you can find solace in knowing that it will go to a good cause.
Bad Sides of Gambling
So, we know that it might not even be necessary to write about this because you can read it almost anywhere, and you can hear it almost anywhere. These bad sides are very real and they will always be something to consider before participating in any gambling activity:
Harmful and addictive: A major argument for why it’s bad is the fact that it can cause addiction. The rush supplies your brain with enormous dopamine levels and this is how you become addicted to that feeling and become willing to do anything to get it again.
Exploiting weakness: Because of the addiction, a gambling person statistically loses more often than not, and this causes a need to try to win again which is a kind of exploitation of the financial weakness gamblers are destined to experience.
Gambling consequences: It’s all a chain of consequences, the addiction and the harm it causes, and further exploitation leads to an increase in crime, and other societal factors suffer the consequences.
Regulations and challenges: There’s an issue in regulating gambling because there are always loopholes in laws, and it’s difficult to maintain continuity to prevent some forms of gambling from reaching the wider public.
Uncertainty: It’s unpredictable because it’s largely based on chance. Of course, you’re going to use some skill when playing Texas Holdem, but there’s still a large chance you’ll lose unless all the other players fold.
Why Online Casinos Become More Popular Each Day
Online casinos are becoming more and more popular because they are extremely convenient. You can play any game online. Just type it into a search engine and you can pick your favorite casino game from your chair and play.
Online casinos almost always have some kind of promotion or bonus like free spins and welcome bonuses. They’re accessible all the time, every hour of every day of every week, etc. You’ll remain anonymous, and your privacy will be respected.
The main thing is that there’s global access to online casinos, you can go online and play casino games wherever you are. But, it also provides ample possibilities for players to practice their skills and learn more things about how to play games such as Texas Holdem.
What to Watch Out For in Online Casinos?
There are a few things you can always check before you engage in online casinos. If they’re transparent about their terms and conditions, and they include the possibility to see their licensing, you can rest assured that it’s safe to play games there.
However, it’s also good to look at possible payment options, different security measures they have, etc.
Conclusion
There are good and bad sides to gambling, it all depends on the individual. When it comes to online gambling and casinos, they’re fun and convenient, but you can never be careful enough when playing their games.

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