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May 7, 2004

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PAGE 14 HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 7 European Jewish students meet ahead of anti-Semitism By Toby Axelrod BERLIN (JTA)--Teasing is an unfortunate but inevitable part of growing up. But when fellow students at Olga Berlin's high school asked her tauntingly if anyone had ever thrown stones at her because she was Jewish, she didn't laugh it off. Instead, Berlin, 18, moved to a different school in her hometown of Stuttgart. Berlin described her expe- rience at a gathering of stu- dents here two days before an international conference on anti-Semitism. The student event, orga- nized by the Jerusalem-based World Union of Jewish Stu- dents and held at the Jewish Museum of Berlin, brought together about 50 young Jews from 23 countries to share their frustrations and hopes about the anti-Semitism they face in their communities and educational institutions. The program was supported in part by the World Jewish Congress. While they may not be threatened physically, stu- dents said they often felt un- comfortable with the kinds of questions they face. "When people hear I'm Jewish, they say, 'Oh, you are not Italian,' " said Gad Lazarov, 20, of Milan. Sweden's Jewish commu- nity has seen an increase in threatening phone calls, said Daniel Schatz, 24, of the Swedish Committee Against anti-Semitism. He said ver- bal attacks on Israel were modern expressions of tradi- tional anti-Semitism, which "attacks the core of Jewish identity." Aylin Varon, 26, of Istanbul, said the Jewish community there "is much more fearful" since the bombings of two Istanbul synagogues in November. "There is much more se- curity. Some Jewish busi- nesses have received threat- ening calls," Varon said. But personally, she said, "I cannot say I have ever expe- rienced anything overtly anti-Semitic." Varon said she has strong friendships with both Muslims and Jews. Many students described facing anti-Israel views on campus and an intensifying anti-Semitic atmosphere in academia and media. One person recalled the case of an editor of a major Lithuanian newspaper, who blamed Jews for the world's problems. Another told of a German professor who com- pared the Warsaw Ghetto up- rising to Palestinian suicide bombingL In Leeds, Britain, students said Palestinian students make sure there is a one- Psychic Serenity Psychic & Card Reading See What qr e New Year Holds Call for one FREE Question 4O7-523-74o8 By Joe Berkofsky NEW YORK (JTA)---Ciara Schwartz grew up in Hungary, where her father owned a tex- tile business and a winery. Then World War II erupted. Schwartz su rvived Auschwitz, immigrated to Brooklyn in 1956 and found work in a sweater factory. Now an ailing widow at 81, Schwartz carries a satchel with a faded picture of her mother and a long list of the prescrip- tion medications she requires each month. She lives on $911 per month in social security payments and occasionally receives repara- tion payments of $900 from Germany--not enough for her Holiday Parties - Weddings Birthdays Anniversaries Children's Parties Special Events Bus. MtgsJSeminar Rooms Avail. Lakeside/Poolside/Penthouse/Catering Full Banquet Facilities & Hotel Rooms Daily/VCeekend Rates ****UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP***** For Reservations Call Today ' 407-834-7631 sided portrayal of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. The Jewish students agreed that they have to be proactive in leading the fight against anti-Semitism, and that both the general public and Jewish students need to be better educated about Ju- daism. They shared ideas and tac- tics. Among them were the creation of an intercultural summer camp' in Ukraine, pro-Israel activities on the Leeds University campus and Jewish cultural events that were open to the public in the Czech Republic and Ro- mania. The students recom- mended working with local Israeli chambers of com- merce to develop pro-Israel programs, and helping local media recognize anti- Semitic stereotypes and un- derstand the difference be- tween legitimate and unfair criticism of Israel. "I think it's important to teach people not to be lazy, but to react," said Chananya Daniel, 20, of Amsterdam. "It's true that students are always doing more things, not just talking." Daniel's words echoed those of Israel Singer, chairman 6f the World Jewish Congress, who told the students that they have an obligation "to take the most gross malefactors to afford the $350 in pills she needs each month. Yet Schwartz refuses to seek as- sistance. "I am very proud," she says. Schwartz was one of some 200 needy Holocaust survivors and groups from around the world appealing last week to the U.S. District Court of East- ern New York in Brooklyn, recounting tales of unimagin- able heartbreak in the hope of gaining a share of the $1.25 billion Swiss banks settlement. Estimates of the number of survivors in the United States range from 109,000 to 174,000. They are among 80 groups or entities--ranging from the Israeli government to Roma, or gypsies--vying for a share of nearly $600 mil- lion expected to be left over from the 1998 Swiss bank settlement after compensation is paid to survivors or their heirs whose bank accounts were taken from them. So far, Judge Edward Korman, who is overseeing the settlement, has awarded $593 million of the settlement's $1.25 billion, though only $155 m iUion has go ne to 2,000 of the estimated millions of Swiss bank account holders. The rest went to others who suffered because of Switzerland's ties to Nazi Ger- many, including refugees and slave laborers in Swiss and German firms. Under a legal principle known as cy pres, or "next best," Korman and an adviser, Judah Gribetz, have signaled that the rest of the money should go to theworld's needi- est survivors, who they say live in the former Soviet Union and Central Europe. In so do- ing, they stirred up a storm that converged last week on KOrman's courtroom. Over 10 hours on April 29, survivors and groups made their heart-wrenching appeals and expose them." Singer said, "You can be more free to express less establishment views because that's what students are supposed to do." Deidre Berger, head of the American Jewish Committee office in Berlin, advised the students to "reach out to non- Jewish partners. Maximize your approach. And be pre- pared and engage in mock debates." Both Berger and Singer, together with the Central Council of Jews in Germany and other groups, organized their own events preceding the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's anti-Semitism conference here. A broad array of represen- tatives of European Jewish communities, educators, lboliticians and non-govern- mental organizations made their way to Berlin ahead of the OSCE conference. They might want to take some ad- vice from students, some of the students suggested. Amy Sampson, 19, and Jardena Lande, 21, both from Britain, said the anti-Israel atmosphere at Leeds Univer- sity had grown worse over the past year. In response, Jewish students organized events using slogans like "More hummus and less Hamas," to draw students into learning more about Is- rael. to Korman.The American Jew- ish Joint Distribution Com- mittee, which oversees social services for an estimated 225,000 Jews in the former Soviet Union, screened video interviews and presented bi- ographies of survivors subsist- ing on pensions or other mea- ger incomes ranging at most from $16 to $67 a month. "As someone who has ob- served poverty and deprivation around the world, those in the FSU are the poorest and the neediest on earth," said Steve Schwager, the JDC's execu- tive vice president. Also weighing in was the World Jewish Restitution Or- ganization, which along with the Jewish Agency for Israel submitted eight bids for nearly 48 percent of the remaining money to aid 508,100 survi- vors in Israel---almost half of the survivors left in the world. Natan Sharansky, Israel's minister of Diaspora affairs, told Korman that the Israelis have "strong disagreements" with indications from Korman and Gribetz that survivors in the former Soviet Union should get top priority once Swiss account holders have been compensated. Israeli survivors "must be taken into account," said Sharansky, who spoke via video hookup from a Berlin conference on anti-Semitism. Not lost on Sharansky was the irony that this former sym- bol of Soviet Jewry was an- gling for funds his former countrymen might otherwise receive. "I know very well their needs," he said, adding that 180,000 survivors have moved to Israel from the former So- viet Union since 1990. Zev Factor, chairman of the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel, which is seeking $941 million for health and home care for Aylin Varon, 26, left, of lstanbul, and Chananya + 20, of Amsterdam, student activism. Arnow Finkeistein, 24, said his Jewish student group in Vilnius recently met with Christian groups. "Now we have good con- tacts; they want to learn Is- raeli dancing. It is an impor- tant start," he said. Anja Doroschuk, 25, of Kiev, said her Jewish com- munity organized a 16-day in- terreligious camp, focusing on a different religious or eth- nic group each day. Her group also'is working to get schools to devote two days to the study of the Holocaust, instead of the standard 20 minutes. Olga Berlin said students should learn "not only about the Second World War, but about anti-Semitism," not only about tion against Jews "but other ethnic groups." then they should Jewish person is not she added. Peleg Reshef, the World Union of Students, said he liked fact that there is a ence on anti-Semitism." at the end of the ish history enable the students "So study morrow if you can, tomorrow you have " he said. needy Israeli survivors, said their concerns are no less pressing than those of others. Like other poor survivors, some 130,000 survivors in Is- rael must choose between food and medical care, Israeli offi- cials said. Factor cited the case of a 92-year-old Haifa man who can't afford a visiting heath aide. "So he doesn't remain in his own excrement all day, is that any less important than food?" Factor said. The Israelis also have main- tained that Korman should adhere to a general rule ap- plied on other Holocaust res- titution fronts, that 20 per- cent of all monies should go toward Holocaust education and remembrance. Nobel Prize-winning author and sur- vivor Elie Wiesel underscored that point in a letter to Korman. "Nothing has been men- tioned about memory," said Ruth Brand, 76, an Auschwitz survivor who volunteers at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memo- rial, in Israel. Brand's experience in the death camp--which she said "was not to be described"-- and her tale of later marrying an American soldier and spawning three generations of descendants left many in the packed courtroom weeping. Attorney Paul Berger of Washington said this was the first time in his 47 years in a courtroom that he had cried. As he struggled to maintain his composure, Berman lauded the judge for having the courage to face the dilem- mas raised by competing sur- vivor claims. Korman is "wrestling with issues that have no answers," Be rman said." How do you take resources that are inadequate to do justice?" One possible solution, said Israel Singer, chairman of the World Jewish Restitution Organization,~ also spoke by video from Berlin, was for to give more time to the* OUS reach some consensus which can all feel fortable." One Jewish zational official said could allow the case to ceedon ing the competin work out their while the court press the Swiss greater access to money. Whether the judge v low that mains to be seen. Much of the around numbers. Sel Pergola, a demographer, ignored factors of relatiVe! and need, where the money the JDC's saying they revealed about the efficiency group's services than actual survivor numberS. But Leonard who led a re and the court on needs worldwide, While it was compare survivor needs, said, he backed the findings that the vivors live in the forn~er viet Union. Still posal to "resolve would help evaluate various Holocaust aid survivors, he thereby"holdtheor that provide some vices accountable." not expected to decision for at least weeks.