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Number of living Holocaust survivors is about 245,000, according to new analysis

(JTA) – Fewer than 250,000 Holocaust survivors remain alive today, according to an unprecedented new report by the organization that has sought to ensure that they are compensated for their suffering.

The oldest known survivor, according to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, is New Yorker Rose Girone, who turned 112 last week. She and her family fled Nazi Germany for Shanghai, where they endured terrible conditions before making their way to the United States.

“My mother will be the first to tell you, we’re very lucky all around,” said her daughter Reha Bennicasa, who at 85 is just below the median age of survivors today (86).

The Claims Conference has long shared basic information about who is receiving the aid it negotiates annually with Germany and offered a similar number of estimated survivors last year. But the new demographic overview is the first to break down the population of Jewish survivors by country of birth and current country of residence; age; gender; and the percentages receiving various compensations and services.

It identifies survivors in more than 90 countries: 49% reside in Israel, 18% in North America, another 18% in Western Europe; and 12% in the former Soviet Union.

The youngest are on the cusp of 80 — the Holocaust ended in 1945 — and, in a reflection of geriatric gender disparities, 61% are women.

The organization says the statistics show that the work of helping survivors is far from over. “Now is the time to double down on our attention on this waning population,” said Gideon Taylor, president of the Claims Conference. “Now is when they need us the most.”

The organization was founded in 1951 and over the decades has negotiated various compensation programs with the German government for survivors around the world, mostly distributed through local service agencies. Last year, the Claims Conference negotiated $1.4 billion in compensation, a record high that the group said was needed to cover the higher costs incurred by an aging population. (The organization also funds Holocaust education efforts.) Survivors receive an array of support, from direct payments and pensions to home care, food, medicine, transportation and social programs.

The new demographic report is based in part on information about Jews served by such programs. The data were combined with published reports on the numbers of recipients of compensation administered by Israel, Germany and Austria.

Though some survivors may choose not to be identified, there are still occasional applications for compensation, the Claims Conference reported. Even with a few new cases added, the overall survivor population is dwindling — an expected trend that has worried schools and synagogues that have depended on survivors to teach about the Holocaust.

The newly released data are “an important contribution in our obligation to the living witnesses that deserve any support they need in their remaining years,” Jewish demography expert Sergio DellaPergola of Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry said in a statement.

It’s important for people to look for the stories behind the numbers, said Bennicasa in a phone call from her home in Queens, New York.

“Given the declining survivor population and the rise in antisemitism, we need to encourage the world to learn about our collective history so that the Holocaust will never happen again,” she said.

Bennicasa was born in December 1938 in what was then the German city of Breslau (today Wroclaw, Poland). Her father, Julius Mannheim, was one of the 30,000 Jews imprisoned in concentrations camps in Germany at the time; like many of those arrested early in the Nazi campaign against the Jews, he was released from the Buchenwald camp on the condition that the family leave Germany.

After an arduous journey by ship, the family finally reached Shanghai, China — where some 20,000 Jews from Europe found refuge. The Japanese occupiers of Shanghai forced the Jewish refugees into ghettos, confiscating virtually everything they owned. For seven years, Bennicasa and her parents lived in a bathroom that was turned into a living space.

Still, she said, she and her mother feel lucky to have had the experience they did.

“Our experiences were not like people in camps, people that were branded in any fashion. Our experience was so different,” she said. “And for me as a child,  whatever circumstances you’re given as a child, you accept them. This is your life.”

It was in Shanghai that Rose Girone (née Raubvogel) started knitting to earn  a living. The skill served her well after the family left Shanghai for America in 1947. After a year, Rose divorced her husband. Some 10 years later, she married Jack Girone, and built up a knitting business in Queens, New York.

“Mother’s talents were quite well known, and whoever knit knew Rose’s Knitting Studio,” Bennicasa said. Her mother retired in 2002 and volunteered in a senior center teaching knitting until she fully retired at the age of 102, in 2014.

For the last two years, Rose has been living in a nursing home, where she is currently recovering from a brief illness. “She goes with the flow and rolls with the punches,” said Bennicasa, who tries to follow her mother’s advice: “Don’t ever get up without a purpose. You have to have a purpose every day.”


The post Number of living Holocaust survivors is about 245,000, according to new analysis appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Exclusive: Iran Sends Russia Hundreds of Ballistic Missiles, Sources Say

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a meeting in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 7, 2023. Photo: Sputnik/Sergei Bobylev/Pool via REUTERS

Iran has provided Russia with a large number of powerful surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, six sources told Reuters, deepening the military cooperation between the two US-sanctioned countries.

Iran‘s provision of around 400 missiles includes many from the Fateh-110 family of short-range ballistic weapons, such as the Zolfaghar, three Iranian sources said. This road-mobile missile is capable of striking targets at a distance of between 300 and 700 km (186 and 435 miles), experts say.

Iran‘s defense ministry and the Revolutionary Guards – an elite force that oversees Iran‘s ballistic missile program – declined to comment. Russia‘s defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The shipments began in early January after a deal was finalized in meetings late last year between Iranian and Russian military and security officials that took place in Tehran and Moscow, one of the Iranian sources said.

An Iranian military official – who, like the other sources, asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information – said there had been at least four shipments of missiles and there would be more in the coming weeks. He declined to provide further details.

Another senior Iranian official said some of the missiles were sent to Russia by ship via the Caspian Sea, while others were transported by plane.

“There will be more shipments,” the second Iranian official said. “There is no reason to hide it. We are allowed to export weapons to any country that we wish to.”

U.N. Security Council restrictions on Iran‘s export of some missiles, drones and other technologies expired in October. However, the United States and European Union retained sanctions on Iran‘s ballistic missile programme amid concerns over exports of weapons to its proxies in the Middle East and to Russia.

A fourth source, familiar with the matter, confirmed that Russia had received a large number of missiles from Iran recently, without providing further details.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said in early January the United States was concerned that Russia was close to acquiring short-range ballistic weapons from Iran, in addition to missiles already sourced from North Korea.

A US official told Reuters that Washington had seen evidence of talks actively advancing but no indication yet of deliveries having taken place.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the missile deliveries.

Ukraine’s top prosecutor said on Friday the ballistic missiles supplied by North Korea to Russia had proven unreliable on the battlefield, with only two of 24 hitting their targets. Moscow and Pyongyang have both denied that North Korea has provided Russia with munitions used in Ukraine.

By contrast, Jeffrey Lewis, an expert with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, said the Fateh-110 family of missiles and the Zolfaghar were precision weapons.

“They are used to point at things that are high value and need precise damage,” said Lewis, adding that 400 munitions could inflict considerable harm if used in Ukraine. He noted, however, that Russian bombardments were already “pretty brutal”.

US AID DELAY WEAKENS UKRAINE’S DEFENCES

A Ukrainian military source told Reuters that Kyiv had not registered any use of Iranian ballistic missiles by Russian forces in the conflict. The Ukrainian defence ministry did not immediately reply to Reuters’ request for comment.

Following the publication of this story, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Air Force told national television that it had no official information on Russia obtaining such missiles. He said that ballistic missiles would pose a serious threat to Ukraine.

Former Ukrainian defense minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk said that Russia wanted to supplement its missile arsenal at a time when delays in approving a major package of US military aid in Congress has left Ukraine short of ammunition and other material.

“The lack of US support means shortages of ground-based air defense in Ukraine. So they want to accumulate a mass of rockets and break through Ukrainian air defense,” said Zagorodnyuk, who chairs the Kyiv-based Centre for Defense Strategies, a security think tank, and advises the government.

Kyiv has repeatedly asked Tehran to stop supplying Shahed drones to Russia, which have become a staple of Moscow’s long-range assaults on Ukrainian cities and infrastructure, alongside an array of missiles.

Ukraine’s air force said in December that Russia had launched 3,700 Shahed drones during the war, which can fly hundreds of kilometres and explode on impact. Ukrainians call them “mopeds” because of the distinctive sound of their engines; air defenses down dozens of them each week.

Iran initially denied supplying drones to Russia but months later said it had provided a small number before Moscow launched the war on Ukraine in 2022.

“Those who accuse Iran of providing weapons to one of the sides in the Ukraine war are doing so for political purposes,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on Monday, when asked about Tehran’s delivery of drones to Russia. “We have not given any drones to take part in that war.”

Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a Philadelphia-based think tank, said a supply of Fateh-100 and Zolfaghar missiles from Iran would hand Russia an even greater advantage on the battlefield.

“They could be used to strike military targets at operational depths, and ballistic missiles are more difficult for Ukrainian air defences to intercept,” Lee said.

DEEPENING TIES WITH MOSCOW

Iran‘s hardline clerical rulers have steadily sought to deepen ties with Russia and China, betting that would help Tehran to resist US sanctions and to end its political isolation.

Defence cooperation between Iran and Russia has intensified since Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia‘s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu met the head of Iran‘s Revolutionary Guards Aerospace Force, Amirali Hajizadeh, in Tehran in September, when Iran‘s drones, missiles and air defence systems were displayed for him, Iranian state media reported.

And last month, Russia‘s foreign ministry said it expected President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi to sign a broad new cooperation treaty soon, following talks in Moscow in December.

“This military partnership with Russia has shown the world Iran‘s defense capabilities,” said the military official. “It does not mean we are taking sides with Russia in the Ukraine conflict.”

The stakes are high for Iran‘s clerical rulers amid the war between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas that erupted after Oct. 7. They also face growing dissent at home over economic woes and social restrictions.

While Tehran tries to avoid a direct confrontation with Israel that could draw in the United States, its Axis of Resistance allies – including Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen – have attacked Israeli and US targets.

A Western diplomat briefed on the matter confirmed the delivery of Iranian ballistic missiles to Russia in the recent weeks, without providing more details.

He said Western nations were concerned that Russia‘s reciprocal transfer of weapons to Iran could strengthen its position in any possible conflict with the United States and Israel.

Iran said in November it had finalized arrangements for Russia to provide it with Su-35 fighter jets, Mi-28 attack helicopters and Yak-130 pilot training aircraft.

Analyst Gregory Brew at Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy, said Russia is an ally of convenience for Iran.

“The relationship is transactional: in exchange for drones, Iran expects more security cooperation and advanced weaponry, particularly modern aircraft,” he said.

The post Exclusive: Iran Sends Russia Hundreds of Ballistic Missiles, Sources Say first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Middlebury College Response to Antisemitism Allegations Slammed by Watchdog Group

Signage for the U.S. Department of Education – Federal Student Aid Office at 830 First Street NE Washington, D.C., USA, on November 28, 2023. Photo: Gen Namer via REUTERS CONNECT

Middlebury College on Tuesday issued, as well as deleted, statements which indirectly responded to allegations of institutional antisemitism that a civil rights group lodged against its administration last week.

As The Algemeiner previously reported, StandWithUs (SWU), a nonprofit that promotes education about Israel, filed a complaint with the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) alleging that high level officials at the school fostered a “pervasively hostile climate” for Jewish students by refusing, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, to enforce anti-discrimination policies equally.

A timeline of events laid out in documents provided by SWU begins after Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7, when the school issued a statement that did not acknowledge the deaths of Israelis, but instead only alluded to “violence happening now in Israel in Palestine.” The following week, the administration allegedly obstructed Jewish students’ efforts to publicly mourn Jews murdered on Oct. 7., denying them police protection for a vigil, forcing them to hold it outside, and demanding that the event avoid specifically mentioning Jewish suffering.

Middlebury responded to the charges on Tuesday, explaining the college’s “Educational Approach to the War in Gaza and Israel,” in two statements, the first of which was later deleted and replaced with a revision containing numerous “stealth” edits.

The first defended chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a slogan widely considered as a call for a genocide of Jews in Israel, as utterance protected by its free speech policy.

“We are fully aware that, while this phrase is divisive, it is experienced and interpreted differently by different groups,” the school said. “Middlebury has extensive structures in place for mitigating ham that controversial speech can cause, and our open expression policy safeguards a learning environment ‘where all voices can be heard and have the opportunity to contribute to the conversation.’”

According to the StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice, Middlebury’s response did not directly address its handling of a vigil that Jewish students organized on Oct. 9 to mourn the victims of Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel, which happened two days prior. In its complaint, SWU alleged that Middlebury roadblocked the event, denying Jewish students police protection and demanding that they omit direct references to Jewish suffering in their remarks and promotional materials. In an email to the Jewish group that planned the vigil, Vice President and Dean of Students Derek Doucet said, “I wonder if such a public gather in such a charged moment might be more inclusive.”

Additionally, no high level administrators agreed to speak at the vigil and condemn antisemitic violence, as well as terrorism. However, a month later, the administration accommodated Students for Justice in Palestine’s “Vigil for Palestine,” providing campus police, space on campus, and a speech from a high ranking official diversity-equity-and-inclusion (DEI) official, a request, StandWithUs insists, which organizers of the Jewish vigil had been denied.

In Tuesday’s deleted statement, Middlebury claimed that president Laurie Patton provided the Jewish students “remarks that were read at the vigil, condemning Hamas and pledging support and care for students.” Not true, StandWithUs, explained. Patton’s statements, like Middlebury’s previous statements about Oct. 7, mentioned only “violence we have seen in Israel and Gaza,” a description of the conflict at which SWU takes umbrage for its equating Hamas’ atrocities with Israel’s self-defense.

StandWithUs said in a press release on Wednesday that Middlebury’s statement is “mendacious,” noting that members of the Coalition for Dismantling Antisemitism at Middlebury are all hired faculty and staff, some of whom are accused of antisemitism in its complaint. SWU also charged that Middlebury’s claim to collaborate with a local Chabad organization is misleading as well, noting that “for over six years” the school has denied the group’s entreaties for formal recognition, a designation that would qualify it for funding and the privilege to reserve space on campus for events and other activities.

“It is no wonder that by the morning of February 20, 2024, Middlebury took its statement down from its website entirely and replaced it with an even more misleading post,” StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein said. “Middlebury can no longer hide from its legal and moral duty to provide a campus environment for its Jewish students free from discrimination and harassment.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post Middlebury College Response to Antisemitism Allegations Slammed by Watchdog Group first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Courage to disagree, with respect: York University student initiative Bridging the Gap promotes civil dialogue on Israel

How a campus initiative was revived following Oct. 7.

The post Courage to disagree, with respect: York University student initiative Bridging the Gap promotes civil dialogue on Israel appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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