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Pogroms in Poland and Ukraine in 1920-21 presaged what was to follow 20 years later

author Jeffrey Veidlinger/
book cover

Review by MARTIN ZEILIG Pogrom is a Russian word meaning ‘‘to wreak havoc, to demolish violently,” says the online Holocaust Encyclopedia on the United States Holocaust Museum website.
“Historically, the term refers to violent attacks by local non-Jewish populations on Jews in the Russian Empire and in other countries. The first such incident to be labeled a pogrom is believed to be anti-Jewish rioting in Odessa in 1821.

As a descriptive term, “pogrom” came into common usage with extensive anti-Jewish riots that swept the southern and western provinces of the Russian Empire in 1881–1884, following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II.

“The perpetrators of pogroms organized locally, sometimes with government and police encouragement. They raped and murdered their Jewish victims and looted their property. During the civil war that followed the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, Ukrainian nationalists, Polish officials, and Red Army soldiers all engaged in pogrom like-violence in western Belorussia (Belarus) and Poland’s Galicia province (now West Ukraine), killing tens of thousands of Jews between 1918 and 1920.”

In this rigorously researched, powerful book, award winning historian Jeffrey Veidlinger presents us with, as an earlier reviewer wrote, the first full depiction of the wave of anti-Jewish pogroms that followed the Russian Revolution “and how they laid the groundwork for the Holocaust.”

Veidlinger is a graduate of McGill University and a professor of history and Judaic studies at the University of Michigan. His books, which include “The Moscow State Yiddish Theatre” and “In the Shadow of the Shtetl”, have won a National Jewish Book Award, the Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre History, two Canadian Jewish Book Awards, and the J.I. Segal Award. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“In the years after the Holocaust, survivors around the globe began compiling memorial books, one for each city and town,” the author writes in his introduction, “‘Will a Slaughter of Jews Be the Next European Horror?’”
But, as he notes, such memorial books are not only histories of the prewar period; they are also histories of the war itself.

“Take, for instance, the memorial book from the town of Proskuriv, located in today’s Ukraine. The book’s title, “Khurbn Proskuriv”, captures the calamity the city endured. The Yiddish world khurbn (‘destruction’), a term derived from the Hebrew word hurban, denotes the destruction of the two biblical temples in the sixth century BCE and the first century CE—and has been used to describe an array of other disasters, from earthquakes to the sinking of the Titanic. After the Second World War, it became widely understood to refer to the fate of European Jewry under the Nazis.”

What differentiates “Khurbn Proskurov” though, is that it was written in 1924—nine years before Hitler’s rise to power and 15 years before the start of the Second World War, Veidlinger writes.
“The destruction of Prokuriv took place a year after the establishment of a Ukrainian state that promised broad freedoms and national autonomy to its Jewish minority, and three months after the armistice of November 11, 1918, that ended the Great War. Delegates from thirty-two nations had just gathered in Paris to work out the treaties that would formally cap what H.G. Wells called ‘the war that will end war.’”

Meanwhile, 1300 miles to the east, on the afternoon of February 15, 1919, Ukrainian soldiers murdered over a thousand Jewish civilians “in what was at the time the single most deadliest episode of violence to befall the Jewish people in their long history of oppression.”
The massacre in Proskuriv was not an isolated event.
“Between November 1918 and March 1921, during the civil war that followed the Great War, over one thousand anti-Jewish riots and military actions—both of which were commonly referred to as progroms – were documented in about five hundred different locales throughout what is now Ukraine, and which was at the time contested territory between Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, and multinational Soviet successor states of the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires,” Veidlinger states.

He observes that a closer analysis of the progroms of 1918-1921 shows them not only to be ethnic riots carried out by enraged townsfolk and peasants, but also military actions perpetrated by disciplined soldiers, including some units of the Red Army committing atrocities.
“Thus, what happened to Jews in Ukraine during the Second World War, then, has roots in what happened to the Jews in the same region only two decades earlier,” Veidlinger maintains.

In April 1920, Polish and Ukrainian forces advanced toward Kyiv from the north, beginning what came to be known as the Polish-Soviet War.
“Their goal was to challenge Bolshevik ascendency in the region and reclaim the historic lands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth,” the author writes.

“One study submitted to the Jewish Public Committee in January 1921 on the basis of material gathered by the Society for the Protection of the Health of the Jewish Population blamed Bulak-Balachowicz for the murder of 435 Jews in 17 locations between October and November 1920. The society also counted a total of 617 incidents of sexual assault in seven towns, including the repeated rape of a twelve-year old child by three officers. The report held locals responsible for having actively participated in the progroms, or at least having done nothing to stop them.”

Veidlinger includes photographs and eyewitness accounts of this gruesome sequence of pillage, brutality and murder in Eastern Europe during those years leading up the Second World War. Even, as he intones, in the midst of civilized Europe.
“Life went on in the 20 years between 1921 and 1941:…From the fields of Ukraine to the halls of the world’s parliaments, decent people reached out to their Jewish neighbours, heeded the warnings of Jewish activists and worked to make the world a better, more civilized place,” the author notes.
“The tragedy is that it wasn’t enough.”
At one point Veidlinger quotes US President Bill Clinton during a visit to Kigali, where he acknowledged the historic failure to prevent the 1994 Rwandan genocide: “Each bloodletting hastens the next, as the value of human life is degraded and violence becomes tolerated, the unimaginable becomes more conceivable.”

Lest we forget.

“In the Midst of Civilized Europe: The Pogroms of 1918-1921 and the Onset of the Holocaust”
By Jeffrey Veidlinger (Harper Collins
466 pg. $39.99)

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Features

“Ain’t No Grave” – new novel set in Deep South in early 20th century combines interracial love story with searing description of the Leo Frank trial and lynching

Book cover/author Mary Glickman

Reviewed by BERNIE BELLAN In 1975, American novelist E. L. Doctorow made waves with “Ragtime,” a novel that interspersed true historical American figures from the first part of the 20th century with fictitious characters. The novel explored the overt racism faced by Blacks in America at that time, along with the antisemitism that was also prevalent.
Now, with a new novel by Mary Glickman, who has specialized in writing historical fiction centering around Jewish characters in the Deep South of the U.S., the themes of anti-Black and antisemitic prejudice in the South reach a traumatic apex, culminating with the lynching of New York-born Leo Frank in Georgia, in 1915.
But – since I don’t like to read too much about what a novel is about before I delve into it, I really didn’t know to what extent the Leo Frank case was going to play a role in this particular book. I prefer to be surprised. Unfortunately, if you’re also of a similar mind, I’m afraid I’ve already let the cat out of the bag.
The story opens, however, not in Atlanta, which is where Leo Frank was framed for the murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan, but in a part of backwoods Georgia known as Heard County, where we meet the two central characters of the book: Young Max Sassaport, the son of the only Jewish couple in his small rural village, and Max’s best friend, an equally young Ruby Johnson, the Black daughter of a sharecropper.
The two children – though from totally dissimilar backgrounds, share a deep bond – which they keep hidden from all around them. Glickman’s lilting prose and her depiction of rural Georgia life reminded me of another wonderful novel, also set in the Deep South: “Where the Crawdads Sing.”
Of course, a relationship between a Black girl and a White boy (and a Jew no less) is bound to come asunder – and even as youngsters, Ruby and Max are aware that they are fated to be split apart. Yet, with the introduction of a fascinating character known as Mayhayley Lancaster, who is described as a “witch,” but who later turns out to be a real person who actually played somewhat of a role in the Leo Frank trial, the children’s fate is foretold. (Again, I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but Mayhayley Lancaster’s transformation later in the novel turned out to be one of the biggest surprises of the book.)
As the first part of the story develops – and it becomes apparent that Ruby and Max are destined to take different roads in their lives, one of the interesting aspects of the story for Jewish readers will be what life would have been like for the only Jewish family in a small Southern town. The Sassaports operate a general dry goods store – as did many Jews in rural locations throughout the U.S. and Canada, but their connection to Judaism is tenuous at best.
In time, both Max and Ruby make their way to Atlanta, but with Ruby leaving when she is only 12 years old and Max waiting another six years before he ends up in Atlanta, neither one of them holds much hope that they will ever see each other again.
Max, however, meets up with a reporter for the Atlanta Journal known as Harold Ross (who would later go on, in real life, to found The New Yorker). Ross takes Max under his wing as a cub reporter and it’s in Max’s capacity as a reporter that he finds himself enmeshed in the Leo Frank trial.
As a press release for the novel explains: “1913. The year heart-sick Max travels to Atlanta to find Ruby, his lost love and childhood friend. And the year New York Jew, Leo Frank, is charged with the murder of a child laborer at the National Pencil Factory. Max is Jewish and Ruby’s Black. Their reunion takes place just as Frank is arrested, a racially charged event that sparks an explosion of antisemitism across the city of Atlanta.”
Although I had somewhat of a recollection of reading about the Leo Frank trial, reading about the events surrounding that trial and its aftermath comes as somewhat of a shock. Leo Frank was framed for the murder of a 13-year-old White girl but the degree to which the police and the prosecutor were determined to pursue a totally made-up case against an innocent Jewish businessman is still jarring to read. As well, when one contemplates how comfortable Donald Trump is with telling one lie after another to suit his agenda, it becomes much easier to understand how so many White authority figures in “Ain’t No Grave” were willing to engage in a total frame-up so as to enrage their White base. The role that many newspapers at the time played in stoking antisemitism also provides a salutary experience in how easy it has always been to dupe a huge proportion of the American public though fictitious media reporting. In 1915 it was through newspapers; today, it’s through the internet.
As the book’s press release notes the parallels between what was happening in the early years of the 20th century and what we are seeing playing out around the world today, “With global antisemitism on the rise, “Ain’t No Grave” draws attention to the fact that garden variety antisemitism can be stoked by bad actors and quickly explode into violence. Sometimes, the media play a role.”
The Jewish community of Atlanta in 1915 was so terrified by what was happening to Leo Frank that events at the time led to the creation of B’nai Brith’s Anti-Defamation League.
The juxtaposition of vicious antisemitism and anti-Black hatred in the Deep South with a love story between a White Jew and a Black woman makes for a compelling read. As a member of the Southeast ADL by the name of Sandra Brett noted after reading “Ain’t No Grave,” “Mary Glickman vividly captures milestones in the Leo Frank saga through sympathetic characters as real as the events surrounding them. She deftly intertwines Leo Frank’s trial and lynching with the founding of the ADL, the rebirth of a moribund KKK, and an interracial love story. Meticulously researched, fast-paced, and thoroughly original, Ain’t No Grave is a moving, satisfying read.”
And, as Pat Conroy, author of another best selling novel set in the Deep South – “Prince of Tides”, wrote about Mary Glickman: “Mary Glickman is a wonder.”

Buy this book on Amazon

Ain’t No Grave
By Mary Glickman
280 Pages,
Publication Date: July 2024
Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.


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Features

The environmental benefits of lawn care

(NC) Caring for your lawn isn’t just about aesthetics – it’s about nurturing a healthy ecosystem right in your own backyard. A well-maintained lawn not only adds charm to your property, it also plays a crucial role in supporting a healthier environment. Here are some of the ways that taking care of your lawn can benefit our surroundings.

Enhancing air quality: Your lawn acts as a natural air purifier, capturing dust, pollen and other airborne particles, making the air cleaner. Through photosynthesis, grass absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) and releases oxygen, helping to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

Preventing soil erosion: Healthy lawns are crucial to preventing soil erosion. The dense grassroot keeps the soil in place, minimizing the risk of decay caused by water or wind. Soil erosion not only strips away valuable topsoil, it can also pollute nearby water bodies.

Cooling outdoor spaces: Compared to urban areas filled with buildings and concrete, places with more grass and trees are noticeably cooler. Additionally, it requires less energy to cool a building surrounded by grass than one surrounded by concrete. A lush lawn not only keeps your outdoor area cooler but could also lower air conditioning bills.

Ensuring clean water: Maintaining a healthy lawn contributes to better water quality. The thick grass cover is a natural filter for rainwater, cutting down on runoff and stopping pollutants from reaching waterways.

How to keep your lawn healthy

To keep your lawn healthy, it’s important to focus on three areas: fertilizing, watering and cutting.

Fertilize: Plants need the proper balance of nutrients to grow and stay healthy. Fertilizer ensures your lawn has all the nutrients it needs in the proper amounts to grow. Fertilize your lawn every other month, beginning in the spring when it starts to turn green, and continue until just before the ground freezes to promote thick, healthy growth that can fight off weeds.

Water: Regular watering is essential to maintaining a healthy lawn. Water your lawn early in the morning to reduce evaporation and fungal growth.

Cut: Mowing your lawn correctly can greatly influence its health. Keep your mower blades sharp and set your mower to the correct height for your grass type.

When fall begins, it’s important to continue caring for your lawn to ensure it remains healthy. Fertilizing in the fall helps strengthen roots and provides essential nutrients for the colder months. Additionally, keep up with watering if there is insufficient rainfall and continue mowing until the cold weather hits.

A vibrant lawn isn’t just a patch of green – it’s a miniature ecosystem that offers a variety of environmental benefits. By taking care of your lawn, you’re enhancing your property’s appeal and playing a vital role in preserving our planet’s health.

Find more information on lawn care and environmental benefits at fertilizercanada.ca/lawncare.

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Features

4 things to know about the Canadian Dental Care Plan

(NC) Have you heard about the Canadian Dental Care Plan (CDCP)? It’s a federal government program that helps reduce the cost of dental care for Canadian residents with a family income under $90,000 who do not have access to dental insurance.

Here are four things you should know about the plan.

What does it cover?
The plan helps cover a wide range of oral health services for eligible Canadians, such as examinations, teeth cleaning, X-rays, fillings, dentures, root canals and oral surgeries. Some services may only be available as of November 2024 and will require prior approval on the recommendation of an oral health provider.

When can I apply?
The application process began in stages, starting with seniors. As of June 27, 2024, two more groups can sign up for the plan: children under the age of 18 and adults with a valid Disability Tax Credit certificate.

When will other adults be able to apply?
All other eligible Canadian residents will be able to apply in 2025. Once fully rolled out, the plan aims to help reduce the cost of dental care for up to 9 million Canadians.

Does it fully cover all dental expenses?
The CDCP will reimburse a portion of the cost, based on established plan fees and your annual family income. There are three tiers of coverage that are based on household income.

  • If you have a family income lower than $70,000, 100 per cent of the plan’s established fee for eligible services will be covered;
  • If your family income is between $70,000 and $79,999, 60 per cent of the plan’s established fee for eligible services will be covered;
  • If your family income is between $80,000 and $89,999, 40 per cent of the plan’s established fee for eligible services will be covered.

The plan may not cover the full cost of your treatment, even if you have a family income lower than $70,000. You may have to pay a portion of the cost if the plan’s established fees are lower than what your provider normally charges. Additionally, you may agree to receive treatment that is not covered by the plan.

Before receiving oral health-care, you should always confirm that your provider is accepting CDCP members, that they will bill Sun Life for direct payment and ask about any costs that won’t be covered by the plan.

Learn more about the plan at canada.ca/dental.

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