Alabama Governor Bob Riley is scheduled to speak at the official Alabama State Days of Remembrance, coordinated by the Alabama Holocaust Commission.
The ceremony begins at the Old House Chamber in Montgomery on April 21 at 10:30 a.m.
A luncheon will be served in “The Tunnel” at 11:30 a.m., followed by a recognition by the Alabama Legislature at 12:45 p.m.
The Alabama Holocaust Commission was established in 1999, but official state commemorations have been held annually since the early 1980s.
The Auburn University at Montgomery annual Holocaust education program will be April 6 from 9:30 a.m. to noon in the physical education complex’s gym.
Birmingham’s commemoration will be April 19 at 1:30 p.m. at the Birmingham Museum of Art.
There will be a screening of “The Counterfeiters,” which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the 80th Academy Awards in 2008.
The program is sponsored by Temple Beth-El Sisterhood, and co-sponsored by the Birmingham Jewish Federation and Birmingham Holocaust Education Committee.
Following the movie, Jewish community volunteer leader Steven Brickman will offer insights and lead a discussion. This program is free and open to the public.
The remembrance program will include a candle-lighting ceremony involving Holocaust survivors and Second Generation members to honor the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust.
The annual Holocaust commemoration sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Huntsville and North Alabama will be April 23 at the Education and Training Auditorium of the Space and The program will feature Max Steinmetz, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. He will speak about his personal experiences.
This year the Federation will be honoring Huntsville City Schools as the Seventh Candle Award recipient for promoting racial and interfaith understanding through their implementation of the course “Holocaust through Literature. Sandra Shipman will accept the award on behalf of Huntsville City Schools.
The Federation will also recognize winners of the JFHNA-sponsored Holocaust Studies Student Essay Contest and the five teachers who have been selected to receive JFHNA scholarships to attend the 2009 Belfer Conference at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Mary Hudson, the JFHNA Education Chair, a former Belfer scholarship recipient, will introduce the five scholarship winners.
On display at the event will be an artwork by John Hubbard, which commemorates the 96 members of the Reichstag who voted against Germany’s abrogating civil rights in 1933. The new law allowed enemies of the Nazi regime to be arrested without cause. The 96 who voted against the law were killed.
Alabama Governor Bob Riley is scheduled to speak at the official Alabama State Days of Remembrance, coordinated by the Alabama Holocaust Commission.
Temple Emanu-El, Canterbury United Methodist Church and the Birmingham Islamic Society are co-hosting a comedy night designed to bridge gaps, increase understanding, and foster better relations among the three faiths.
On April 19, comedians Rabbi Bob Alper, Azhar Usman and Nazareth Rizkallah will bring a different kind of religious interchange to Canterbury Methodist — “Building Bridges in Birmingham… With Laughter.”
Alper has appeared at synagogues throughout the South over the years. Originally a congregational rabbi, he dabbled in comedy before pursuing it full-time. A Steve Martin lookalike, he calls himself “the world’s only practicing clergyman doing stand-up comedy — intentionally.”
Alper originally did an act with Ahmed Ahmed, calling themselves Comedy’s Odd Couple, at the suggestion of a publicist. At first, Alper wasn’t sure about traveling with Ahmed — not because he was Muslim, but because of professional difficulties when comedians tour together. He saw a tape of Ahmed, then decided to give it a try.
Their first appearances were in 2002, mostly in synagogues. Ahmed would begin by introducing himself, then adding, “and I can’t fly anywhere.”
After Ahmed had to devote more time to his film career — including a role in “Don’t Mess With the Zohan,” Alper found Usman, a lawyer who toured with an “Allah Made Me Funny” theme. Usman is a native of Illinois.
Recently, they brought Rizkallah aboard.
Rizkallah, which he says is pronounced “Smith,” is an evangelical Christian who grew up in Ohio after living in Gaza and Kuwait. Born in Nazareth, he is regarded as “only Middle Eastern Christian comedian in the United States.”
Their interfaith shows are often done on campuses, with co-sponsorship of Hillel and Muslim Student Associations.
While they often take questions at the end of their performances, they shy away from politics, because they are there to make people laugh and to have a better appreciation of other groups.
Emanu-El Rabbi Jonathan Miller said “we extend our thanks to the Odess Family Lecture Fund and the Rabbi Milton Grafman Endowment Fund for making this event happen.”
The program will begin at 6 p.m. at Canterbury Methodist. A reception with the comedians will follow the program in Canterbury Hall.
The event is open but seating is limited. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students. Any proceeds, in excess of expenses, will go to Greater Birmingham Ministries.
For tickets and additional information, contact Ashley Neal, Canterbury United Methodist Church, (205) 871-4695; Dina Glass, Temple Emanu-El, (205) 933-8037 ex. 244; or Saadia Malik, Birmingham Islamic Society, (205) 879-4247.
A nursery will be provided for preschool children, though reservations are required. Contact Amanda Fuller at (205) 874-1546 by April 16.
From staff and JTA reports
An unsuccessful terror attack at the Lev Hamifratz mall in Haifa on March 21 reverberated in the Deep South as two families in Birmingham’s Jewish community had a close call.
Talor Bearman and Kayla Perlstein, both from Birmingham, were in the mall that evening seeing a movie with Harrison Bailey, an Israel Defense Forces soldier from Mississippi.
Bearman is currently serving in the IDF, while Perlstein, a sophomore at the University of Alabama, was visiting family in Israel during Spring Break.
According to an email sent by Perlstein to the Birmingham Jewish Federation, the three went to the mall for dinner and a movie on her last night in Israel. “All of a sudden the movie stopped and some men came in and started speaking in Hebrew.”
Bailey told them that the men were talking about a bomb threat and they had to leave the mall immediately. Outside, he asked an officer what was happening, and was told to get “the hell out of there.”
Perlstein recalled, “When we got outside, we saw that all of the roads were blocked off for miles. People were not allowed to go to their cars and there was only one way out.”
An explosives-laden car was discovered in the parking lot of the shopping center after one of the bombs partially exploded. Police immediately evacuated the mall and police sappers deactivated the remaining unexploded bombs, which could have caused severe damage and many deaths, according to reports.
The mall and surrounding area reopened the next day. A train station is located at the mall, which is adjacent to Haifa’s central bus station.
Police believe Palestinian terrorists were behind the attack, according to reports. The white Subaru car was registered to a woman from eastern Jerusalem, though police believe it was stolen.
An Israeli-Arab group calling itself Galilee Freedom Fighters claimed responsibility for the attempted attack, according to the daily Ha’aretz. The group is apparently unknown to Israeli security forces.
“As far as Israel is concerned, this was a terrorist attack in every sense,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting on March 22. “The State of Israel views this terror attack seriously.
“We mustn’t kid ourselves. The attempted terror attacks in the State of Israel continued and continue, originating among other places in the West Bank, where Hamas seeks to establish its infrastructure and status. It seeks to do so by continuing on the road of terror and causing heavy damage to Israel’s citizens.”
Perlstein said “As scared as I was, I still felt some sort of security being in the company of two soldiers. All in all, I would still go back to Israel.”
With anti-Israel groups increasingly active on college campuses, the Anti-Defamation League in New Orleans is hosting an interactive program for students and parents, to prepare them for campus challenges.
“Israel on Campus: What Do We Know and Expect” will feature Kenneth Stein, the William Schatten Professor of Contemporary Middle Eastern History, Political Science and Israeli Studies at Emory University.
Stein lectures widely and writes about the Middle East. Since coming to Emory in 1977, he founded and developed the International Studies Center, was the first director of the Carter Center (1983-1986), and in 1998 established the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel.
The program is open to high school sophomores through seniors, their parents and current college students.
A light dinner will follow the workshop, which begins at 3 p.m. on April 5.
The program is being co-sponsored by the Center for Israel Education, Atlanta, all local congregations, the Chabad Student Center, Hillel, Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.
The Anti-Defamation League announced that it will host the world premiere screening of “The People v. Leo Frank,” a television documentary shedding important new light on the trial and subsequent lynching of Jewish Atlanta businessman Leo Frank.
The screening will be held on April 30 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, located just two miles from the site in Marietta where Frank was hanged after being abducted from a prison cell in Milledgeville, Ga.
“The world premiere of this compelling film will present an important opportunity for the people of metro Atlanta to reflect on the bigotry that haunts our past, but more important, to celebrate how far we’ve come in building a community that rejects bigotry and hatred,” said Liz Price, ADL Southeast Regional Board Chair.
Chairs for the ADL event are former Georgia governor Roy Barnes, Cobb County Chairman Sam Olens, the first Jewish chairman of Cobb County, and Emory University Associate Professor of Law Julie Seaman, a board member of the Georgia Innocence Project.
The Leo Frank case is widely regarded as one of the most infamous episodes in American judicial history. Frank, the manager of a downtown Atlanta pencil factory, was accused of murdering Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old employee of the factory. Sensational coverage by daily newspapers whipped the emotions of Atlanta citizens into a frenzy about the murder, and Tom Brown, a Georgia political leader and magazine editor, stirred powerful anti-Semitic feelings with his lurid articles attacking Frank.
The Frank case catapulted the Anti-Defamation League into prominence as one of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations. Because Leo Frank was the lone white victim in a sea of African Americans who were lynched in the South, it is appropriate that the ADL mission is “To stop the defamation of the Jewish people… and to secure justice and fair treatment for all.”
Ironically, the Frank case also sparked a rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan.
The evening will include a salute to the teachers and students from some of the 150 metro Atlanta schools that participate in ADL’s acclaimed No Place for Hate anti-bullying initiative.
The event will also pay tribute to the federal, state and local law enforcement officers who work with ADL every day.
“The People v. Leo Frank,” written, produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker Ben Loeterman, will be shown on PBS stations across the country in the fall. Loeterman is one of public television’s most prolific producers of historical and public affairs documentaries, and has produced numerous films for such prestigious PBS programs as American Experience and Frontline.
Loeterman and the film’s stars, Will Janowitz of “The Sopranos” and Seth Gilliam of “The Wire,” and many of the Atlanta actors and production team that worked on the film will attend the premiere.
Tickets for the premiere are available on the ADL online ticketing site, at www.ald.org/leofrank or by calling the ADL office at (404) 262-3470.
Two area professors are among those joining an international — albeit mostly unsuccessful — call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel.
In late January, the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel responded to the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, citing “Israel’s indiscriminate assault on the Gaza Strip and its educational institutions.”
Georgette Ioup, professor emeritus in the Department of English at the University of New Orleans, and Scott Sorrell, mathematics instructor at the University of Louisiana — Lafayette are among about 250 academic signatories to the call as of press time.
There were no signatories from Alabama, Mississippi or the Florida panhandle.
The call urges institutions to refrain from “any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions that do not vocally oppose Israeli state policies against Palestine,” requests “a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels,” promotes divestment from Israel and support for Palestinian “academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.”
The boycott would continue until Israel ends “its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands” and dismantles the security fence, recognizes full equality for “Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel” and allows the “rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties.”
While condemning the recent Israeli operations in Gaza as “probable war crime” there is no mention or call for an end to any Palestinian action against Israel.
Sorrell stated he supports the boycott because “quite simply Israel does not obey international law, U.N. resolutions, Geneva Conventions and until it respects the will of the world and the rule of law it should be sanctioned.”
He stated that for every Israeli killed in the recent Gaza operations, “Israel killed 100 Palestinians.”
Ioup had not responded to requests for comment by press time.
Last month, the Canadian Union of Public Employees conference of Ontario university locals adopted a resolution that would cut partnerships between universities in Ontario and universities in Israel. It now heads to CUPE Ontario’s annual convention in May for further debate.
Also last month, CUPE Ontario president Sid Ryan apologized for comparing Israel’s bombings of academic institutions in Gaza to actions perpetrated by the Nazis.
On Feb. 24, members of Tuscaloosa’s Temple Emanu-El were joined by University of Alabama officials for the groundbreaking of the congregation’s new building.
The groundbreaking was the next step in a process that is bringing Emanu-El to campus, to be situated next door to a new Hillel building.
University President Robert Witt, who has made increasing Jewish enrollment at Alabama a priority, said “The presence of this Temple will allow us to be able to say to parents that not only will their students receive an education, but they will be able to remain grounded in their faith, culture and tradition.”
The new site is located between Paul Bryant Drive and University Boulevard, at what is referred to as the “God Quad,” where several religious organizations are housed.
The synagogue will be roughly 6500 square feet, with a sanctuary, library, two classrooms and office space. There will be 12 Eastern cedars planted outside, representing the 12 tribes of Israel.
Emanu-El co-presidents Joel and Toby Whitman said “The partnership of Temple Emanu-El, Hillel, and the University has contributed to the ability to service, counsel, and provide a broader dimension of activity for our students and congregational community.”
Rabbi Steven Jacobs, who is the Chair of Judaic Studies at Alabama and serves the congregation part-time, said the new building “will also enable us to do even more outreach than we have been able to accomplish,” and he envisions inviting clergy and congregants of other faiths for fellowship and study, as well as establishing a stronger relationship with Hillel.
Foundation work will be underway this month, as the congregation continues toward its $500,000 goal.
For Emanu-El, the move is a return downtown. The congregation moved to Skyland Boulevard in 1971. That facility was sold in 2007 to the Tuscaloosa Regional Center of the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind.
The Hillel House was located on the corner of Wallace Wade Avenue and Eighth Street, directly across from Bryant-Denny Stadium.
If one looks throughout the Middle East, radical anti-West forces are using the philosophies and tactics of one man — a man who befriended Adolf Hitler during World War II and was actively working on a plan to replicate the Holocaust in the Middle East.
John Rothmann, co-author of “Icon of Evil: Hitler’s Mufti and the Rise of Radical Islam,” said it is important to know the history of Haj Amin al-Husseini, because so many problems of the Middle East stem from his leadership of the Palestinians, and there is no chance for peace until the Muslim world recognizes and eradicates his influence.
Rothmann said al-Husseini is the man “who created the three no’s — no peace, no recognition, no negotiation” with a Jewish state. That was formally adopted by the Arab world after Israel’s 1967 victory in the Six Day War, when Israel assumed its military victory would lead to negotiations and peace.
The book came about from a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust center, in 1968. There, Rothmann and co-author David Dalin saw a photo of Hitler with a man they did not know anything about. It was al-Husseini, who in 1921 had been appointed by Britain to head the Arabs in Palestine, in the hopes that his appointment would appease hard-liners there. Instead, it gave legitimacy to al-Husseini and his radical views.
Rothmann and Dalin researched al-Husseini for almost 40 years, documenting his ties with the Nazi regime and his influence in the Muslim world today.
Rothmann noted that after his appointment, al-Husseini launched a campaign of assassinations against any Arab who was amenable to negotiations with the British or the Jews, including members of his own family. This set the precedent for using assassination as a political tool.
In 1941 he was welcomed in Berlin, where Hitler realized the adage, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and both regarded Britain and the Jews as their enemies.
The mufti visited Auschwitz and urged the workers to kill Jews more quickly and efficiently. He also tried to work out an agreement where Germany would sweep through northern Africa, remove the British from Palestine, install him as ruler of the area and set up concentration camps for the extermination of the Jewish population there.
Rothmann said the fourth chapter in the book has been particularly controversial — based on the Mufti’s writings, he writes the presumed history of the Middle East after a Nazi victory.
It isn’t far-fetched. The Mufti oversaw the establishment of Bosnian Muslim divisions that were responsible for killing 90 percent of Bosnian Jews.
In a 1944 radio broadcast from Berlin, al-Husseini even let it slip that 5 million Jews had already been exterminated.
While many wanted to bring al-Husseini to trial at Nuremberg, the British and French feared indicting the popular leader would inflame the Muslim world, so they gave him yet another pass. And the United States reluctantly agreed.
The mufti was the first to issue fatwas — religious edicts — against the British, the United States and the Jews. To underscore al-Husseini’s influence even today, the Muslim terrorists in Mumbai earlier this year looked for three groups — British, Americans and Jews.
The edicts married political power with religion, which “is what we face in Iran.” One can come to agreement in a political dispute, but “once you put religion and politics together you haven’t got a chance.”
If one reads the charters of Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and the Muslim Brotherhood, Rothmann said, it all comes from the writings of al-Husseini.
He stepped down from his leadership of the Palestinians after the Six Day War only when a suitable successor was found — his nephew, Yasser Arafat.
Lest one think the authors are painting with a broad brush, “We were very careful to identify radical Islam as the danger,” he said. “Islam is a great world religion.”
He hopes the Muslim world will read the book and understand its implications. “We can point out the problem. The only way the problem of radical Islam will be solved is by the Muslims themselves” saying they have had enough.
It isn’t completely far-fetched, Rothmann insists. After all, Germans had to own up to their past after World War II and “accept what was done.”
The history of al-Husseini stands in stark contrast to those who insist the entire problem in the Middle East is Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Instead, the animosity predates the establishment of Israel by decades.
Land for peace will not work, Rothmann said. Neither will an overwhelming military victory. “No matter what Israel does, it will not satisfy the Arab/Muslim world until Israel ceases to exist” — or the moderates seize control of the Muslim world.
He acknowledges that many will refuse to accept this, in the fear that by recognizing the truth, peace will be further away. He believes that acknowledgement of this history instead could hasten peace.
Rothmann serves on the faculty of the Fromm Institute at the University of San Francisco. He is an author, teacher, archivist, political consultant, and talk show host on the ABC-affiliated KGO 810-AM Newstalk Radio in San Francisco. He has lectured on American politics and the presidency and the Middle East throughout the United States, Canada, and Israel.
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