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May 4, 2012

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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 4, 2012 For Koppelman, distasteful Tehran scene inspires gift to New Israel Fund By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Murray Koppelman saw women pushed onto the back of a bus in Tehran and had a nightmare about Israel's future. Koppelman, a well-known philanthropist in New York, is behind a New Israel Fund pledge drive to combat dis- crimination against women in Israel. He will match every new dollar donated to the New interview that the idea for trip--Iamover80--Ineeded Israel Fund up to $500,000. A full-page ad in The New York Times including a dramatic photo of a defaced poster featuring a woman's portrait--one of many that have been vandalized in Jerusalem--announced the drive on April 18. The ad urges Americans to "Help keep Israel strong, free and democratic." Koppelman, 80, said in an the campaign came to him when he was touring Iran last autumn. He had traveled much of the world and wanted to see Iran "while I still could make the trip," he told JTA. His decision caused much family conster- nation, but he persisted. Koppelman waited six months for a visa. He hired a guide when he arrived in Iran. "It was a very arduous to sit down. I found a bench, I sat down," he recalled. It was a bus stop. "There were 20 to 30 women with chadors on, and when the bus came, they were pushed to the back," Koppelman said. The scene brought to mind an NIF-organized lecture he had attended just before leav- ing for his trip. Alice Shalvi, Koppelman on page 15A New Jersey court: Courtesy of Murray Koppelman Murray Koppelman in his Manhattan office next to a work by the Israeli artist Yaacov Agam. discrimination because he is not Jewish. On April 18, a three-judge panel of the state Appellate Di- vision reversed that decision. The appellate court said it recognized"thatanti-Semitic comments are likely to af- fect a reasonable Jew more profoundly than a reasonable non-Jew, although we do not suggest that any reasonable person should tolerate com- ments of a nature as offensive as those expressed by Unangst and Gingerelli." "Reasonable" is a legal term often invoked in tort and li- ability law. "The Appellate Division concluded he was perceived to be Jewish, and if you look at the nature of the comments, they are not something you would say to a non-Jew," Sci- rocco told the Jewish News in an April 22 phone interview. Frederick Polak, a coun- sel for Carson and Roberts, acknowledged that Cowher was a frequent recipient of anti-Semitic slurs. However, he told NJJN, Cowher also used derogatory language in the workplace. "If you review the state- ment of facts, you will see the record establishes that Myron Cowher made anti-Semitic, anti-Italian, and racist state- ments on a continuous basis while employed at Carson and Roberts," the lawyer said in an April 22 phone interview. "There is corroboration from either four or five people that he made those statements." Scirocco denied the allega- tion. "Polak's witnesses are employees of the company and of course they are all going to say that," he said. According to Polak, neither Cowher nor any other employees were fired or disciplined because "the president of Carson and Roberts, Stan Carson, was never informed of any of the comments made by his em- ployees. The first he learned of any of this was when the lawsuit was filed." At this point, the construc- tion company has not decided whether to appeal the Appel- late Division's ruling. Polak said Unangst is no longer employed by the truck- ing firm, but, he added, he "was not at liberty to say why [Unangst] was let go." Cowher--who now works as a truck driver for another firm--stands ready to pursue his lawsuit against Carson and Roberts. No trial date has been set. In response to the taunts, said Scirocco, Cowher "told them to 'knock it off,' but I don't remember whether he told them he was not Jewish, He felt, 'Why do I have to tell them this? Why are they even Eta Munk Eduard Kub in, of Brnenec, Czech Republic, as a 17-year- oldworked at a plant adjacent to the Schindler buildings. the entire property, includ- ing the Schindler buildings, is now mired in litigation that could take years to resolve. "Those buildings are going to stand there in that condi- tion for years to come," said the bankruptcy administra- tor, Jiri Krejcerik. "No one is going to invest into property that isn't theirs." Blahoslav Kaspar, the mayor of Brnenec, the town where the factory stands, long has dreamed of turning the Schindler buildings into a Holocaust memorial. The town submitted a plan for the center to the regional authorities with a request for about $1 million. But it has no Bankruptcy, deten'oration mars plans for memorial at Schindler factory site chance of acquiring the funds until the ownership issues are resolved. Horrified by the rapid de- struction, historical preser- vationists scrambled to have the site declared a national monument. But the request, now pending in the Czech Culture Ministry, hinges upon the concurrence of Blue Fields, which has stopped communicating except via an electronic mailbox. Until a company representative re- emerges, the authorities say their hands are tied. Though a preliminary ban on demolition has been placed on all buildings, Blue Fields still destroyed several 19th-century buildings in better shape earlier this year, Eliska Rackova of the Par- dubice Historical Authority told JTA. "The owner produced a statement from the construc- tion authorities saying that the buildings were decrepit and a danger to the public, and we were powerless to stop it," she said. Now there is concern that the same fate awaits the rest of the Schindler buildings, possibly condemning a key piece of Jewish history to the dustbin. In the winter of 1944, as the war neared its end and the Nazis rushed to destroy concentration camps and prisoners, Schindler moved some 1,200 Jews from his enamelware factory in Kra- kow, where they faced near- certain death in Auschwitz, to Brnenec in the Czech Sudetenland. At the time, Brnenec resident Eduard Kubin was a 17-year-old worker at a mu- nitions plant adjacent to the Schindler buildings. Kubin, now 86, still remembers the freezing winter night when the transport arrived. "It was the coldest winter anyone could remember, and 15 prisoners froze to death on the way," he recalled. "They took them to the cemetery in the village of Brezova, but the priest wouldn't let them be buried on cemetery ground. They had to dump them in a nearby hollow and pile old wreaths on them. "After the war, the Czechs made the local Germans dig them up with their bare hands and place them in a mass grave inside the cemetery. Schindler even brought in a rabbi to consecrate the ground." Relics of those cruel times are everywhere: the lat- ticework balcony where the guards took their smoke breaks; the courtyard where prisoners assembled; the iron gate with the peephole that still creaks open to grant a glimpse of the world; the low door (now marked with a sloppily painted D) that Schindler would emerge from for the review. "Around back there's a doing this? Why do I have to explain I am not part of that group to have these hate- mongers stop doing this?'" Mark Levenson, an attor- ney at Sills Cummis Gross in Newark and president-elect of the State Association of Jewish Federations, praised the appellate ruling. "In my view, this is a deci- sion of major significance," he said. "The Cowher decision greatly expands the right of individuals in employment discrimination cases. Em- ployers will no longer be able to escape liability by claiming thatthe aggrieved employee is not a member of a protected class." Robert Wiener is a staff writer for the New Jersey Jewish News, from which this article was reprinted by permission. You may contact Wiener at rwiener@njjewish- The lower part of the Schindler factory next to a demolished 19th-century building. window where we used to leave loaves of bread," said Kubin, pointing to a narrow alley next to the factory wall. "It was next to the electrified fence, in a spot where the guards in the towers couldn't see. We'd wrap them in oily rags to camouflage them." "Giving them food was tricky," said Petr Henzl, 83, whose father worked at the factory during the war. "A lady who lived behind the wall threw them some fruit once, but the guards caught them picking it up and gave them an awful beating." Both Henzl and Kubin give much of the credit for the survival of the prisoners to Schindler's wife, Emilie. "He was off on business mostly," Kubin said. "She ran the kitchen and the hospital and got the headman at the mill to give them the leftover groats and husks to make gruel. She was also the one who took in the last transport in December." The few local residents who remember that time now look on in frustration as the property falls into further and further disrepair. JTA's efforts to contact Blue Fields, which does not list telephone or email contacts, were unsuccessful. The Czech Jewish commu- nity says it would welcome a memorial in Brnenec. "It's a world-fam0us site, and it would be a shame not to use it for educational purposes--there can never be enough of those," said Tomas Kraus, spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities. "In the history of the Czech Jews it is but one stone in the mosaic, but a very important one." BRNENEC, Czech Repub- lic (JTA)---The windows are smashed, the doors stand agape and the keys in the rusting padlocks have not been turned for years. Still, despite the plaster clinging to the crumbling bricks in leprous sheets, the front looks salvageable. The back, however, tells a different story. Piles of debris block gaping holes knocked through the walls when the owners tore out the big textile machines. Nearby, the erst- while camp hospital decays in a sodden mess. This is the place where in the waning days of World War II, Oskar Schindler saved L200 Jews from near-certain death. The Schindler buildings were last used by a company called Vitka, a once-thriving textile manufacturer. But after Vitka went into bank- ruptcy in 2004, a series of corporations sold off its machines for lump iron and stripped the buildings of anything of value. In the course of last year, the latest owner of the prop- erty, Blue Fields, razed 80 percent of the factory build- ings. Blue Fields also failed to pay the bank, which put a lien on the property. The bankruptcy administrator immediately put a halt to further demolitions, and By Eva Munk A truck driver at a New Jer- sey construction firm haswon the right to sue his employer after being subjected to 17 months of anti-Semitic slurs, even though he is not Jewish. Experts say the ruling, by the state Appellate Division, will expand the scope of who can sue for discrimination under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination The ruling significantly broadens the interpretation of the law, which typically has protected people based on their actual age, race, religion or sexuality. It now allows anyone, not just a member of the protected class, to pursue a claim. Myron Cowher, who is German-Irish and a Lu- theran, alleged that two of his supervisors at the Carson By Robert Wiener New Jersey Jewish News and Roberts Construction and Engineering Co. in La- fayette tormented him with bigoted remarks, including "Jew bastard" and "If you were in Germany we would burn you in the oven." "My argument was he doesn't have to be Jewish in order to have suffered dam- ages, because they perceived him to be a Jew," said Cowher's attorney, Robert A. Scirocco of Budd Lake. "They made the workplace a hostile workplace for him." Cowher filed suit in De- cember 2008 alleging a hos- tile work environment. But Carson and Roberts and two of Cowher's supervisors, Jay Unangst and Nick Gingerelli, won a dismissal of his case against them before it came to trial in Sussex County Su- perior Court, which said Cow- her was not protected by the state law against anti-Semitic Non-Jewish man can sue over anti-Semitic comments