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February 28, 2014

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 28, 2014 PAGE 5. a. Reclaiming Anne Frank's Jewishness By Gary Rosenblatt Los Angeles--Anne Frank is the most universally known of the six million Jewish vic- tims of the Holocaust. Her diary has been read by millions of people around the world, and her tragic story of living in fear, hiding from the Nazis in a secret annex in Amsterdam with her fam- ily and others for more than two years, has been told in a Broadway play, Hollywood movie, television dramas and in countless other ways. Is there anything more to be known about this precocious younggirl with a gift for writing, a poignant faith in humanity, and maturity far beyond her years? Until now I thought not, having been deeply affected by her diary when I read it as a teenager, as so many others still do, and having imagined the terror she felt on being discovered by the Nazis. But on visiting the major Anne Frank exhibit at the Simon Wiesenthai Center's Mu- seum of Tolerance here last week--it opened in October and will remain in place for 10 years--I came away with a deeper understanding of Anne's story as both an in- timate personal tragedy and one that provides historical context in understanding how Hitler's hatred of Jews could dehumanize a people and lead to their decimation. Our guide, Matthew Boger, explained at the outset of our tour that the intention of the museum was not to make Anne "a poster child of the Holocaust," but rather to tell her unique story as one of 1.5 million Jewish children who perished at the hands of the Nazis. Other exhibits at the museum educate tens of thousands of visitors eachyear about how the Holocaust came to be and its tragic results. • Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean and founder of the center who accompanied us during our visit, noted that when the Mu- seum of Tolerance opened in 1993, many thought its exhibits would be viewed primarily by the Jewish population of Los Angeles. Instead, he notedwith pride, 95 percent of its visitors each year are not Jewish. The vast majority of the 150,000 who came last year were public school students, primarily from seventh through 12th grade. The new exhibit, titled sim- ply "Anne," is described in its publicity as "a special 60 -min- ute experience" utilizing "immersive environments, unique artifacts, multimedia presentations and exciting interactive elements." They include a video interview with a cousin of Anne's who survived the war and recalls her as "a lively child ... a little explosion," and correspon- dence between Anne's father, Otto, and a wealthy American friend who tried, unsuccess- fully, to obtain visas for the Frank family. But the most poignant power of the exhibit is in its Letters To The Editor HERITAGE welcomes and encourages let- ters to the editor, but they must be typed or printed and include name and phone number. We will withhold your name if you so request. Please limit letters to 250 words. Due to space limitations,we reserve the right to edit letters. Send letters to P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. Or e-mail to Judea and Samaria have 'cities,' not 'settlements' Dear Editor: In regard to the article in the Heritage Feb. 14 issue, about the communities, I would like to know where the funding for Ms. Paiss' NGO comes from. The communi- ties in Judea and Samaria are part of Israel. The Knesset should annex those areas. Calling all the cities in those areas "settlements" does a disservice to all the thousands of Jews living there. Visit Judea and Samaria when you go to Israel and you will see those cities are permanent for all the Jews who make their homes there. Sandra Solomon Casselberry JAO move to JCC not a good idea Dear Editor: I was disappointed to read your cover article in the Feb. 7 edition of the Heritage regard- ing a member of the commu- nity's supposed "master plan" for the Maitland campus. I am referring specifically to Mr. Schwartz's idea to re- combinethe Jewish Academy of Orlando back into the JCC. I would encourage Mr. Schwartz to read OlgaYorish's email (coincidentally sent on Feb. 7) about the importance of day schools for the future of a Jewish populace that is growing less connected to its Jewish roots. In addition to citing a Pew Research study about the importance of day schools, Ms. Yorish states "I strongly believe that no Jewish community can flourish today without good day schools." Unfortunately, this plan that Mr. Schwartz suggests would cause irreparable harm to the Jewish Academy of Orlando As a parent, I would encourage anyone who has not been to the school re- cently, to visit and observe the hundreds of Jewish children learning about Jewish tradi- tions and participating in Jewish life. Moving back to the JCC would be a tremen- dous step backward for the school. Parents would lose confidence in the school's viability and it would open a floodgate for parents to look elsewhere• For a community that cannot "flourish today without good day schools," we would be left with a wounded, flailing school. use of Anne's own words-- some spoken by an actress and others featured on the walls or reproduced as diary entries--drawing you into her world, her thoughts, her dreams and fears. Her early "Dear Kitty" entries in the diary, given as a present to her on her 13th birthday in 1942, describe the typical musings of a child Anne's age, includ- ing her desire to be a movie star. (How ironic that she yearned for Hollywood, only a few miles from the site that memorializes her short life.) Over the next 26 months, until the diary abruptly ends just before the annex was discovered in August 1944, Ante's writings grow more thoughtful and self-reflective as she describes her ever- shrinkingworldwhile the war rages around her. The designers of the exhibit subtly convey that confining reality by gradually narrowing the passageway as visitors move through the exhibit. Those visitors includenot only groups of school children but also adults, including about 7,500 law enforcement of- ficials from the Los Angeles Police Department each year who come to the museum for one or two-day training ses- sions in dealingwith prejudice and minorities. A group of about20 com- manders in the force toured the "Anne" exhibit while we were there and appeared raptly attentive as they moved along in silence. Second, shame on the Heritage for publishing this article--without response from either the Jewish Acad- emy or the JCC--in a commu- nity-wide issue that is freely distributed at the exact same time as the JAO is recruiting for new students. Rather than trying to push Orlando's only Jewish day school off a cliff, perhaps the Jewish Federation should be there with a strong group of supporters to help JAO and ensure the future of the Jewish community in Orlando. I would encourage Federation to listen to their executive director; she is very smart. Finally, I would like to address Michael Soll's edito- rial about the "relevance" of federation. After read- ing about how federation's primary activities include supporting the startup of Hitlel and various leader- ship development programs, the majority of the editorial discussed federation's role as a "landlord" to the two JCC campuses (including the JAO). I reviewed the Jew- ish Federation of Orlando's Mission Statement online, which states that the JFGO "is committed to uniting our Jewish community, building meaningful partnerships and proving a solid long-term foundation for Jewish life in Central Florida." Nowhere in that statement does it say anything about how its role as a "landlord" supports the Orlando Jewish community. JFGO puts on some great events that unite the Jewish community such as Choices and its support of Jewish Pavilion is critical. However, the debt situation and its supposed administration of the Maitland campus is As we accompanied them, reading passages that em- phasized Anne's Jewishness, including an essay on chesed called"Giving,"I was remind- ed of the author Meyer Levin's futile struggle to preserve the Jewish content of her words in the 1956 Broadway play based on her diary. I interviewed Levin several years before his death in 1981, and he was by then an angry and bitter man who acknowledged his "obsession" with the univer- salization of Anne's story ever since his original script for the play was rejected by the producers as "too Jewish." Here at the "Anne" exhibit Levin would take satisfaction in reading Anne's thoughts on God and being Jewish, including this passage, writ- ten April 11, 1944, which was omitted in early editions of the diary: "Who knows, maybe our religion will teach the world and all the people in it about goodness, and that's the reason, the only reason, we have to suffer. We can never be just Dutch or just English or whatever, we will always be Jews as well. And we'll have to keep on being Jews, but then, we'll want to be." Liebe Geft, the director of the Museum of Tolerance, ex- plained thata primary purpose of the exhibit was "to reclaim Anne Frank as a Jewish child of the Holocaust." (Eleanor Roosevelt's introduction to the American publication of the diary, in its rendering of Anne as a generic victim of war, does a distraction from the real work that Federation needs to do to fulfill its mission. If its primary role is as a "landlord," I would argue that either Federation's relevance should be questioned or they need to change their mission statement. Orlando's Jewish com- munity is at a crossroads. We are becoming more removed from our Jewish identity and it is the responsibility of our Jewish organizations to work to bring the community to- gether. The bestway to do that, and the best way to fulfill the Jewish Federation's mission of providing "a solid long-term foundation for Jewish life in Central Florida" is to unite behind our children arid to support their Jewish educa- tion. I would think that is something we can all agree on. Jeremy Scheinberg Winter Park Editor's note: Stan Roberts (author Of the article) wrote the article for Federation and it was approved by Olga Yorish and Michael Soil." Also in the Feb. 7 issue was David Bornstein's column, titled "How we got where we are," which gives a good his- tory of why the Federation has become the "landlord"- and although it is not in its mis- sion statement, the Federa- tion has been forced into the awkward position of landlord to hold everything together. In a column Bornstein wrote in the Oct. 18, 2013 issue, he said ":..every time a campus agency was in arrears (one agency in particular has been for years), or late to make a payment.•, the Federation stood up and made good, dip- ping into reserves, using the annual campaign to shore up the shortfalls•" not mention the Holocaust or that Anne was Jewish.) "To a large extent," Geft noted, Anne's story has been "romanticized, mythologized and universalized," with some educators suggesting the di- ary is all one needs to know of the Holocaust• "But this," she said motioning to the walls of the exhibit, "is about Jewish continuity" and the message that "anti-Semitism did not die with Hitler." Before leaving the exhibit, visitors are invited to partici- pate in an interactive activity that asks for their reactions and encourages them to share their thoughts in a tweet or e-mail to friends. The idea, indicative of the Wiesenthal Center approach, is to pro- mote action, not just reflec- tion. Itwas only before parting ways at the end of our tour that Matthew Boger, our guide, told us his remarkable per- sonal story of reconciliation with a former skinhead who as part of a street gang in the early 1980s assaulted Boger, then a teenager, because he was gay, and left him for dead. A 23-minute film, "From Hate to Hope," is based on how the two men met 28 years later through their workat the Museum of Tolerance. They now lecture together on their experience, and the film is up for an Academy Award next month in the short documen- tary category. That film, and the "Anne" exhibit, underscore how the Wiesenthal Center has carved out a niche in melding Hollywood and humanity in a way that may offend pur- ists but continues to have a powerful impact on the masses. As Rabbi Hier told me, "We're not afraid of using technology" in a proper way to get an important message across. Anne Frank wrote: "I want to go on living after my death." This exhibit helps fulfill a young girl's wish far beyond her imagination. 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