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Hundreds of Holocaust survivors pose with posters of Hamas hostages in a statement of solidarity

(New York Jewish Week) – As a docent and speaker at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Holocaust survivor Toby Levy has spent more than a decade sharing stories from her Polish childhood spent in hiding and deep fear.

Levy was once again at the museum in Lower Manhattan on Wednesday, but this time not to share her memories with visitors. Instead, she and more than 200 other survivors filed into the museum’s event space for “Images of Hope,” a powerful photo project in which each survivor posed for a portrait while holding a poster of one of the more than 240 hostages being held in Gaza by Hamas. 

“I felt a good feeling,” Levy, 90, told the New York Jewish Week after her portrait was taken by photographer Gillian Laub. “I felt as if I am a very lucky person. So if I feel I’m so lucky, I’m hoping that maybe, somehow, it will reach them inside the picture.”

Levy added that the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel — and the subsequent explosion of antisemitism seen around the world since — remind her of her childhood “perfectly.” 

“I’m back there all over again,” she said. “This is how it started with the Germans.”

Maya, a Holocaust survivor, poses with the kidnapped poster for Aviv Atzili while Gillian Laub snaps a photo for the project “Images of Hope.” (Julia Gergely)

On Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that antisemitism in the United States has reached “historic levels” in the wake of Israel’s war with Hamas. 

The museum event was pulled together in just two and a half days after it was conceived Sunday by Jack Simony, the director general of the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation, a nonprofit based in Poland and New York that provides Holocaust education and humanitarian assistance to victims of mass atrocities.

The Holocaust survivors came together under various auspices, including the AJCF, as well as the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the Claims Conference, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Coney Island, Boro Park Bikur Cholim and several other Jewish organizations that work with New York’s population of Holocaust survivors, which was estimated at nearly 40,000 statewide as of April 2022. 

The survivors heard speeches from various elected officials, including Jewish City Council members Eric Dinowitz, Simcha Eisenstein and Julie Menin and from Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. Also present were Carson Ruepke, the German deputy consul general; Aviv Ezra, a senior diplomat in the Israeli consulate and Rep. Dan Goldman. Each spoke of the survivors as symbols of resilience and strength for the Jewish people and proclaimed strong support for the State of Israel as well as the immediate, urgent need to return the hostages safely. 

Fay Malkin, an 85-year-old who survived the Holocaust in Poland by hiding on a neighbor’s farm, told the New York Jewish Week that she has felt “so much misery” since the Oct. 7 attack. “The most important message and the thing that will save us is strength and specifically the strength of Israel,” she said. 

Posters with the words “Never Again Is Now,” lined the walls of the room, and Ruepke, the German representative, repeated the phrase in his speech.

“I speak to you as the representative of a country that bears a historic responsibility for the worst imaginable crime, the crime committed by Nazi Germany: The Shoah. The systematic murder of 6 million Jews with the aim of eradicating Jewish life from Europe,” he said. “It is not easy to put into words what it means to me that so many Holocaust survivors are present here today in a show of solidarity with the hostages taken on October 7. You all have my deepest respect and admiration.”

The survivors heard speeches from local electeds. Speaking is Rep. Dan Goldman, (D-N.Y.) who was in Israel with his family when the war broke out. (Julia Gergely)

The assembled survivors sang “Hatikvah,” the Israeli national anthem, as well as “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” (“Jerusalem of Gold”). They also said “Mi Sheberach,” a prayer for healing, for the hostages and injured people. 

Over the course of four hours, survivors were pulled aside individually to pose for a portrait holding a poster. As they waited their turn, they listened to the speeches, schmoozed with one another and ate a catered lunch of blintzes, wraps, pastries and fruit. The afternoon concluded with a group portrait.

The event was the latest addition to a massive global movement seeking to drawn attention to the hostages even as attention turns to Israel’s war against Hamas. “Kidnapped” posters have gone up around the world, as have billboards and public displays symbolizing the hostages’ absence, including empty Shabbat tables, strollers and beds. Relatives of the hostages have also embarked on a world tour, visiting the United Nations and elected officials in multiple countries to press for attention.

Simony said the room full of the survivors — the majority of whom are in their 80s and 90s — provided an “indelible image” that could add to the pressure and will stay in the hearts of the Jewish people at a time when they need it most. 

What exactly will happen with the portraits is undecided as of yet, organizers said. They plan to print them and hope they will be hung exhibits around the world, as well as distributed across social media and to families of the hostages. 

Seeing so many Holocaust survivors come together for the project is like “air,” Jack Kliger, the president and CEO of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, told the New York Jewish Week. “Our survivors are our north star. Whenever I have a question of how we should approach something, I listen to my groups of survivors. The universal thing we heard from survivors is that they are so frustrated and they want to know what they can do and how they can raise their voices.”

Simony concurred. “We call the generation that suffered through the Holocaust ‘survivors,’ not ‘victims,’ for they are the ones that truly embody endurance, courage, fortitude and strength,” he said in his remarks. “There is no more powerful voice on earth to carry a message of the image of hope.”

Levy, who lives in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, said she was “very scared” for her children and grandchildren and added that she was worried that the lessons of the Holocaust may now be falling on deaf ears. Yet she said would remain optimistic about the return of the hostages, only five of whom have gained freedom in more than three weeks.

“I took the picture because I believe in hope,” she said. 

The post Hundreds of Holocaust survivors pose with posters of Hamas hostages in a statement of solidarity appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Kyiv Rejects Putin’s ‘Absurd Ultimatum’ to End War

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

i24 NewsRussia’s strongman President Vladimir Putin said he would end the war in Ukraine only if Kyiv agreed to drop its NATO ambitions and hand over the entirety of four provinces claimed by Moscow. Kyiv swiftly rejected the demands as tantamount to surrender.

Putin demands that Ukraine transfers to Russia four regions, including a 300,000 city of Kherson and 700,000 Zaporizhzhya as a “precondition” to “peace talks”. This man is delusional, and those in the West who speak of “negotiations” or “cease fire” are enemies of the free world.

— Sergej Sumlenny, LL.M (@sumlenny) June 14, 2024

“The conditions are very simple,” Putin said, listing them as the full withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the entire territory of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.

Putin’s maximalist conditions apparently reflect Moscow’s growing confidence that its forces have the upper hand in the war.

He restated his demand for Ukraine’s demilitarization and said an end to Western sanctions must also be part of a peace deal. He also repeated his call for Ukraine’s “denazification.”

“He is offering for Ukraine to admit defeat. He is offering for Ukraine to legally give up its territories to Russia. He is offering for Ukraine to sign away its geopolitical sovereignty,” said Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, rejecting the demands as “absurd.”

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Deadly Explosion Kills 8 IDF Soldiers in Rafah

Illustrative. Some rises after an Israeli strike as Israeli forces launch a ground and air operation in the eastern part of Rafah, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 7, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Hatem Khaled

i24 NewsEarly this morning, tragedy struck in the southern Gaza city of Rafah as eight Israeli soldiers lost their lives in a devastating explosion, marking the deadliest incident for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the region since January.

The IDF has confirmed the casualties, with one soldier identified as Captain Wassem Mahmoud, 23, a deputy company commander from Beit Jann in the Combat Engineering Corps’ 601st Battalion.

The names of the other seven soldiers will be released after their families have been notified.

According to initial reports from the IDF, the soldiers were traveling in a Namer armored combat engineering vehicle (CEV) as part of a convoy around 5 a.m., following a successful overnight operation targeting Hamas militants in the Tel Sultan neighborhood of Rafah. During the operation, troops under the 401st Armored Brigade reportedly neutralized approximately 50 gunmen.

The convoy was en route to buildings captured by the army for the soldiers to rest, when the Namer CEV, which was the fifth or sixth vehicle in the convoy, was struck by a powerful explosion. The nature of the explosion remains under investigation, with possibilities ranging from a pre-planted bomb to an improvised device placed on the vehicle by Hamas operatives.

Initial findings suggest that explosives stored on the exterior of the Namer CEV may have contributed to the severity of the blast. Normally, such explosives are designed to minimize harm to troops inside if detonated.

The IDF probe indicates there was no gunfire preceding the explosion, and the vehicle was not stationary at the time of the incident. The circumstances surrounding the tragedy have prompted intensified scrutiny into the safety protocols and operational procedures during military movements in hostile territories.

The deaths of these eight soldiers bring the total number of IDF casualties in recent ground operations against Hamas to 307. This figure includes a police officer killed during a recent hostage rescue operation and a civilian Defense Ministry contractor also slain in the conflict.

This is a developing story 

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U.S. Officials Fear Escalating Conflict Between Israel and Hezbollah

Israeli firefighters work following rocket attacks from Lebanon, amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, near the border on its Israeli side, June 13, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Avi Ohayon

i24 NewsRecent actions by both Israel and Hezbollah have sparked growing concerns among U.S. officials, who fear that the situation could escalate into a full-scale war, according to reports from CBS News.

The tension has intensified following a series of Israeli airstrikes on Lebanese territory, which some American authorities believe are laying the groundwork for a larger military operation.

Sources within the US government have expressed worries that such a move could trigger a conflict that might strain Israel’s alliance with Washington.

Hezbollah, in response to recent events including the assassination of senior commander Taleb Sami Abdullah, has escalated its own actions. The group has begun launching daily rocket attacks targeting northern Israeli communities since October 8, citing solidarity with Hamas amidst the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

US officials cited by CBS News have highlighted concerns over the potential unintended consequences of Hezbollah’s increased attacks. They fear that these actions could provoke Israel into launching a significant military assault, further exacerbating the volatile situation in the region.

The developments come amid ongoing international efforts to de-escalate tensions and prevent a wider conflict. Diplomatic channels remain active, with calls for restraint and dialogue from various quarters.

The United States, a key ally of Israel, has historically played a crucial role in mediating and influencing regional conflicts. Officials are closely monitoring the situation, emphasizing the importance of avoiding actions that could escalate tensions further.

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