Vancouver, BC. Jewish Museum, April events

The Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia has April programs focusing on women’s history and Jewish summer camps, and has announced a new book and a new online archive for a local Jewish newspaper.

The Women’s History Fair will display more than 20 displays from museums, archives, historical societies, cultural groups, schools and more in cooperation with the Women’s History Network of British Columbia. Jewish women pioneers are part of the exhibit.

The exhibit takes place Saturday, April 10, from 1-4pm, at the Central Library, 350 West Georgia St. Admission is free. It is co-sponsored by the VPL Special Collections, Herstory Cafe and the Vancouver Courier.

Michael Schwartz will present a curator’s talk on the Home Away From Home exhibit which focuses on British Columbia’s Jewish summer camps, on Thursday, April 15, from 7-9pm. Admission is free.

The exhibit runs through October 7, and includes hundreds of photographs from Camp Miriam, Camp Hatikvah and Camp Solomon Schechter. Explore the camp histories and view interactive displays including camp alumni interviews, photographs and songs. Visit Sunday-Thursday, from 10am-5pm.

Since the 1930s, the children of the BC Jewish community have attended Jewish summer camps in BC and elsewhere. They have learned about Jewish history and ethics, the history and politics of Israel, and developed a strong sense of community. When asked about their experiences at camp, alumni often say that their dearest and longest lasting friendships began at the age of seven or eight, in their first days at camp. The exhibit explores such lasting impressions and features an array of photographs, artifacts and interactive displays. Jewish Camps featured in the exhibit include Camp Miriam, Camp Hatikvah, and Camp Solomon Schechter.

Schwartz was a Camp Miriam long-time staff member and served as executive director in 2006 and 2007, and as programming director in 2005. He earned an MA in History (University of Toronto) and worked as a researcher and coordinator at the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre.

The Jewish Western Bulletin which changed its name to the Jewish Independent in 2005, has been the British Columbia Jewish community’s newspaper since 1930. Currently, it is published 49 weeks of the year.

Originally labeled “The Organ of the Jewish Community Centre,” the Jewish Western Bulletin was first published as a newspaper October 9, 1930. It superseded the Jewish Centre News, a publication that had existed under a series of names since 1923. Issues of the Jewish Western Bulletin and its precursor publications dating from 1923 – 2004 have been digitized using OCR technology and are made available on the Multicultural Canada website.

The project was made possible through the financial support of the Irving K. Barber BC Digitization Program, Multicultural Canada, the National Archival Development Program (NADP), Simon Fraser University and the THEN/HiER History Education Network.

A new book on sale at the Museum is the 50-year history of Camp Solomon Schechter, by David Michael Smith.

Established in 1955 by Rabbi Joshua Stampfer and his colleague Rabbi Joseph Wagner, Camp Solomon Schechter aimed to fill a gap by providing the Jewish families of the Pacific Northwest with the region’s first kosher summer camp.

Its 156 glossy pages chronicles the history and life of camp with photos, illustrations and alumni experiences. The price is $10 (softcover), $12 (hardcover) plus S&H.

For more information, send an email, or view the Museum website.

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Israel: ‘Auschwitz-Birkenau Blueprints’ opens Jan. 25

Sculptor Bernie Fink’s Memorial to the Jewish Soldiers (1985) at Yad Vashem.
Bernie is a FINK cousin from Suchostaw and Skalat
(Austro-Hungary, Galicia->Poland->Ukraine).
His father went to South Africa from Galicia. (See below for more)

“Architecture of Murder: The Auschwitz-Birkenau Blueprints” is a new Yad Vashem exhibit opening on Monday, January 25, as part of a diplomatic symposium.

On display will be original architectural blueprints of Auschwitz-Birkenau, given to Yad Vashem for safekeeping last summer by the German newspaper Bild, published by Axel-Springer.

“The original plans detailing the construction of Auschwitz, constitute graphic illustration of the Germans’ systematic effort to carry out the ‘Final Solution’,” said Avner Shalev, Chairman of Yad Vashem. “We have chosen to display them to the public to illustrate how seemingly conventional activities of ordinary people brought about the construction of the largest murder site of European Jewry.”

Marking the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, the opening will take place as part of a special symposium in the presence of dozens of members of the diplomatic corps – representing some 80 countries – and Auschwitz survivors, and with the participation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Among the speakers will be the Prime Minister, Minister of Education Gideon Saar, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Holocaust survivor Ruth Bondy, Prof. Shlomo Avineri, Prof. Moshe Halbertal, Bild Editor Kai Diekmann, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Director Dr. Piotr Cywinski, Historical Advisor to the exhibition Dr. Daniel Uziel, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate Avner Shalev will address the participants.

Also displayed for the first time will be the photo album of Auschwitz’s construction. Other items include an aerial photo of Auschwitz from the RAF, the Vrba-Wetzler Report (authored by two Jewish Auschwitz escapees in 1944), quotes from SS men and Jewish prisoners describing the site and its murderous purposes, and a copy of the poem “Death Fugue” by Paul Celan.

The exhibit was curated by Museums Division director Yehudit Inbar. A traveling version of the exhibit will open at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday, January 26. Attending that opening will be Minister of Diaspora Affairs and Public Diplomacy Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev, American Society for Yad Vashem chairman Eli Zbrowoski, and the exhibit curator Yehudit Inbar.

*The Memorial

Bernie’s work is dedicated to the 1.5 million Jewish soldiers, ghetto fighters, partisans and soldiers of the Allied forces who fought against Nazi Germany.

Six oblong, hexagonal blocks of granite are arranged in two groups of three. A Star of David – Magen David – is created between the hexagons, sliced down the middle by a stainless steel sword. The blocks represent the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis, the Star of David symbolizes the Jewish People, and the sword, the fight against the Nazis.


The Star of David and a sword is usually associated with the Israeli Defense Forces; the symbolism connects Allied Jewish soldiers and today’s Israeli soldiers.


An annual ceremony is held on May 9 at the memorial, marking the victory of the Allied forces over Nazi Germany.

For more information, view the Yad Vashem site.

Museum of Family History: Jews of Asia

Tracing the Tribe is very happy to see a new exhibit at the cyber Museum of Family History – “The Jews of Asia.”

Many Jews – both Ashkenazim and Sephardim – lived in various Asian countries.

Steve Lasky indicated that aspects of Jewish life will be presented.

The first offering is “Synagogues and Memorials.” Although incomplete, viewers can now see contemporary photos from Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bombay/Mumbai, Cochin/Kochi, Rangoon, Singapore and Istanbul. More will be added.

The photo above left is one of the Sephardic Torahs from Ohel Leah in Hong Kong; some scrolls date to the 18th century.

On August 7, 1901, Abraham Jacob Raymond, senior member of E. D. Sassoon & Co, laid the foundation stone of the new Sassoon-sponsored synagogue on land donated by brothers Jacob, Edward and Meyer Sassoon. It was named after their mother, Leah Gubbay Sassoon.

In 1995, a modern Jewish community center opened next to it. In 1998, the historic synagogue (below) was carefully restored (at a cost of US$6 million) to its original form. It is a UNESCO Heritage Site.
Steve asks Tracing the Tribe readers to think about sharing photos they may have taken for places not currently listed. Reach Steve via email.

Tracing the Tribe has often written about Asian Jewish communities. Use the search box and plug in the city and/or country of interest and see what’s already been covered here.

Tel Aviv: Lithuanian synagogues exhibit opens Dec. 17

An exhibit of Lithuanian synagogue photos will open at Beit Hatfutsot (the Museum of the Jewish People) in Tel Aviv on Thursday, December 17.

“Sounds of Silence: Traces of Jewish life in Lithuania” is under the auspices of the Embassy of Lithuania in Israel, and focuses on the remaining synagogues in the country. The photos were taken by outstanding Lithuanian photographer Raimondas Paknys.

Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Vygaudas Usackas will open the exhibit, which includes the lighting of the sixth handle of Chanukah. Tracing the Tribe has been invited and will write about the exhibit.

Other speakers include MK Ze’ev Bielski, Israeli-Lithuanian parliamentary group chair; MK Yohanan Plesner; Minister Usackas, and Markas Zingeris, Vilnius Gaon Jewish Museum director.

Washington, DC: Lincoln and American Jews, Dec. 13

Professor Anne Rubin, a Civil War expert at the University of Maryland, will present “Father Abraham and the Children of Israel: Lincoln and American Jews” at the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington meeting on Sunday, December 13.

The joint program – with the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington (JHSGW) – will begin at 12.15pm, at the Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria, Virginia.

Prior to the main program, there will be tours of the JHSGW exhibit, Jews of DC, which focuses on local Jews during the Civil War.

One of the most important events in our nation’s history, the Civil War forever altered American life. Washington and Alexandria were sites of intense activity. This new, original exhibition tells stories of Jewish life in Civil-War Washington and across the river in Alexandria. Mounted as part of national celebrations of Lincoln’s bicentennial in 2009, this exhibition includes images from JHSGW collections, supplemented by photographs from the Library of Congress and other local repositories.

Admission: JGSGW/JHSGW members, free; others, $5.

For more information see the JGSGW website.

New York: Jews of Spain conference, Dec. 5-7

The historic link between Spain and the Jewish people will be explored at an international conference – “The Jews of Spain: Past and Present” – set for December 5-7, organized by the American Sephardi Federation/Sephardic House.

The event, at New York City’s Center for Jewish History, will bring together experts and scholars from the US, Canada and Israel, with the participation of senior Spanish government officials.

Renowned as both the historic birthplace of Sephardic culture, Spain was also the site of dark moments in Jewish history.addressing both the triumphs and travails of the Sephardic Jewish legacy in Spain.

The event is being organized by ASF with the assistance of the Consulate General of Spain in New York.

Saturday night’s opening will feature a gala concert and dessert reception with Spain’s Paco Díez, showcasing his voice, guitar, hurdy-gurdy, bagpipes, percussion and folk traditions from diverse regions in Spain.

The program covers contributions of Jews to Spain through scholarship, culture, the tragic medieval period, and contemporary issues.

Speakers include:

From Insiders to Outcasts: A History of the Jews in Spain – Prof. Jane S. Gerber (CUNY)

Yehuda Halevi, Poet and Pilgrim – Prof. Raymond P. Scheindlin (JTS)

The Challenge of Philosopy on Religious Thought: The World of Moses Maimonides – Dr. Albert L. Ivry (NYU)

Jewish Thought: The Mystical Traditions – Prof. Elliot Wolfson (NYU)

The Reconquista: Jews and the New Realities of Christian Spain – Prof. Jonathan S. Ray (Georgetown University)

The Unknown Jewish Artists of Spain – Dr. Vivan Mann (JTS)

Jews and the City in Medieval Spain – Prof. Eleazar Gutwirth (Tel Aviv University)

The Inquisition/The Expulsion of 1492 and Don Isaac Abravanel – Prof. Eric Lawee (York University)

Spain and the Jews Today – Enrique Mugica Herzog (ombudsman, Spain)

The Jewish Communities in Contemporary Spain – Jacobo Israel (president, Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain)

The Sephardic Heritage as a Living Part of Spanish Culture – Diego de Ojeda (director general, Casa Sefarad/Israel, Madir) and Assumpcio Hosta Rebes (secretary general, Red de Juderias, Girona)

A book will be published on the conference topics, documenting Sephardic heritage’s deep roots in Spain. Translated into Spanish, it will be distributed throughout Spain to universities, libraries and other centers.

Tickets are daily attendance or a Sunday-Monday package ($95, with a discount for ASF members/NextGen members for $75). Fee includes a kosher buffet lunch each day. The Saturday night program is $35/$25, for concert and dessert reception. Reservation deadline is November 30.

The program is funded by the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation. Other participating organizations are Casa Sefarad/Israel (Madrid); Red de Juderias (Girona), the Instituto Cervantes (New York) and The Catalan Center (NYU).

ASF/SH is committed to promoting this program to a wider Jewish and non-Jewish audience to enrich public knowledge about the Sephardic Jewish experience.

ASF has a library and archives exclusively devoted to Sephardic/Mizrahi topics and authors – the only one in the western hemisphere open to the public. Its mission is to collect, preserve and provide access to resources for the study of Jews tracing their ancestry to the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans and the Orient. Click for the Online Catalog.

“The Jews of Spain: Past and Present” is a year-long ASF initiative. Other components include:

Exhibition: “Jerusalem and the Jews of Spain: Longing and Reality.” Free and open to the public through May 2010.

Film Festival: The Sephardic Jewish Film Festival (February 4-11, 2010, New York) will feature selected films on Spain.

Lecture Series: Such topics as “Maimonides, Spinoza and Us;” “Daughters of Sara, Mothers of Israel;” and “The Jewish Presence in Contemporary Catalan Literature.”

See the ASF site link above for much more information.

Warsaw: Jewish tombstone photo exhibit planned

Ruth Ellen Gruber posted on her Jewish Heritage Travel blog about an exhibition planned on misused Jewish tombstones.

The Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland has posted an announcement that it will be working with the Ethnography Museum in Warsaw to put together a photographic exhibition on a fascinating, little-examined (and rather uncomfortable) topic – the use of Jewish tombstones (mazzevot) after the Holocaust in improper, even deliberately desecratory ways.

See here for more, including photographs.