Newspaper Archive of
Heritage Florida Jewish News
Fern Park , Florida
May 11, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
PAGE 14     (14 of 20 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
PAGE 14     (14 of 20 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
May 11, 2012

Newspaper Archive of Heritage Florida Jewish News produced by SmallTownPapers, Inc.
Website © 2019. All content copyrighted. Copyright Information.     Terms Of Use.     Request Content Removal.

PAGE 14A By Jason Miller WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. (JTA)--More than 65 years ago, Evan Kaufmann!s great-grandparents were mur- dered in the Auschwitz death camp. Now he is taking the ice for the German national hockey team. Following a successful hockey Career at the Univer- sity of Minnesota, Kaufmann tried out for several profes- sional clubs in the United States before being advised by his agent that his best option was to play for a team in the German Ice Hockey League, or the DEL. His late grandfa- ther's German roots enabled Kaufmann to receive German Citizenship quickly, and he and his wife, Danielle, relo- cated to Dusseldorf in 2008. The 27-year-old forward represented the German na- tional team in the Minsk Cup, a four-nation tournament. He made the national team as a forward and is playing in the world championships, which began May 4. He is hoping to have a chance to make the German OJympic squad that will compete in the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia. HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWlSHNEWS, MAY 11, 2012 Great-grandson of Auschwitz victims taking the ice for Germany fessional hockey in Germany? "They were a little unsure initially just because of ev- erything that happened [in Germany] but they knew it was my lifelong goal to be a professional hockey player and I committed so much time to it," Kaufman said. "It's an issue not just for them but for a lot of American Jews in general. Germany is so different today than it was back then. I wish more people could come over here today so they wouldn't have to carry that stereotype forever." Being chosen to play for the national team carried with it mixed emotions for Kaufmann. "A lot of the time I was thinkingwhether my grandpa would be happy about this or sad or mad," he said. "The more I thought about it, I know he had plans to come back to Germany before he died. He wasn't able to, but that helped me get over those initial fears. I feel more pride with the association of feeling German than I ever thought I'd have." Observing Judaism has been achallenge for the young Kaufmanns as well. "The first year we were in Dusseldorf, we went to a small Orthodox synagogue. We had a tough experience," he recalled. "We were taking photos from the outside and we were questioned and had to show our passports because there was an incident there a few years prio r . That spoiled it for us." The couple makes a point of trying to keep the Jewish traditions alive. They share holiday dinners together and observe RoshHashanah and YomKippur, and the Passover seder. They had met at Adath Jeshurun Congregation in Minaetonka, Minn., the Con- servative synagogue where their families are members. "They took notice of each other in our sanctuary when they were at High Holiday services a few years ago and started to date," Rabbi Harold Kravitz recalls. "They married in our sanctuary a few years later." Since becoming more open about his Judaism and his family's ties to the HOlocaust, Kaufmann's teammates have become more curious. "They want to know what everything means for me compared to them, but ulti- mately they know who I am as a person," he said. "Our friendships were established without religion, so it doesn't change anything. I was always hesitant to talk about it, but now that I'm being more public about it, I've become more comfortable with the history. I think it's a good story to express." While his teammates tell him that anti-Semitism still exists in certain regions in Germany, Kaufmann hasn't experienced any firsthand. "I don't think it's any different than in America or any other country," he said. "There's always going to be people who have their own beliefs. Personally, I've only had good experiences in Germany." Kaufmann knows that he has his detractors in the # Jewish commumty who find it troubling that someone who lost members of his family in the Holocaust could be play- ing for the German national team. "Initially there was a part of me that thought that Oay," Kaufmann said. But, he added, "I've always been During his first years play- ing for the DEG Metro Stars, Kaufmann kept his Judaism to himself and didn't tell his teammates that he was the grandson of a survivor or that his great-grandparents perished in the Holocaust. "At first Iwas pretty uncom- fortable expressing that I was Jewish and speaking about my family's background, but that was true even in America," Kaufmann told JTA. "It's not something in the hockey world that is really talked about. It's not something I was comfortable sharing with most people. But I've found that the younger generation here in Germany is open to differences, and from my experience they've all been interested in knowing more about being Jewish, including the holidays and traditions." Kaufmann and his wife are expecting their first child, a son, in June and will be re- locating from Dusseldorf to Nuremberg, where Kaufmann recently signed a three-year contract with the local team, one of 14 in the German hockey league. How did his parents react when he decided to play pro- In a Ukrainian Jewish orphanage, Tikva, -economic downturn hits home taught to give people a second chance." He ad, "lxerything that happened was so long ago and in a country that was so differ- ent. Obviously I never want to forgetwhat happened, and that's why I tell my story. But to hold that against a whole country of people who had nothing to do with it would not be fight." Kaufmann has considered that he could be competing against the United States in May at the world champion- ships, but he's not concerned. "I'm focused on helping this team and playing my role within the squad to help us win hockey games, and I don't think it matterswho the opponent is," he said. In addition to fulfilling his dream ofplaying on the Olympic team in tw o years, Kaufrnann also expressed his desire to get his son skatingwhen he's 3 years old, a year earlier than his own first time on the ice. Rabbi Jason Miller writes about how information tech- nology and social media are transforming the Jewish com- munity and is president of Access Computer Techhology, based in Michigan. His latest project is called Torah Daily. By Alex Weisler ()DESSA, Ukraine (JTA)-- In a colorful room at the Tikva Children's Home here, 30 young boys stand in two straight lines arid wait for the cue signaling that they are to start singing. The children, students in a music class, are perform- ing "Mind Your Manners" by the Philadelphia-based duo Chiddy Bang. It isn't just their singing voices they are de- veloping. Their performance is being recorded on video to be sent to potential'donors in the United States. ,Takel a second look and you'll see, there is no one like me," they sing.  Part music education and part fundraising, the dual- purpose performance un- derscores the depth of the financial crisis facing Tikva, an orphanage that serves impoverished and orphaned Jewish children from Ukraine, Moldova and southern Russia. The orphanage is strug- gling to provide for its nearly 2,000 charges in the midst of a global financial downturn that has decimated itsbudget. In 2008, the organization had a $12 million budget, butwith donations down 30 percent, the budget is now $7.3 mil- lion, according to CEO Refael Kruskal. "A few years ago I would pick up a phone and someone wOuld give you $100,000, $200,000," Kruskal told JTA. "Now it's two or three meet- ings, and I have to get on a plane." The challenges facing Tikva are a sign of the toll that the global economic downturn is having on Jewish institutions in already financially strapped nations. The organization was founded in 1996 as a project of the Orthodox outreach organization Ohr Sameyach which dispatched Israeli- born Rabbi Shlomo Baksht to help invigorate Jewish life in Odessa. The organization is now independent, an Ohr Sameyach representative told JTA, though Baksht, who is also Odessa's chief rabbi, remains vice president of Tikva's board and a member of its seniorstaff. Tikva also operates ancil- lary programs, including an adult education program, a synagogue, a newspaper and a television program. These, too, had been run by Ohr Somayach. Over the last three years, the orphanage has had to cut back on its services and offerings. Kruskal says the HANDYMAN SERVICE Handy man and General Maintenance Air Conditioning Electrical Plumbing Carpentry Forrnerly handled maintenance at JCC References available . STEVE'S SERVICES Call Steve Doyle at (386) 668-8960 hard part has been doing that without sacrificing the orga- nization's ability to provide for its young charges. "We can't allow for children not to be saved," said Kruskal, who has been at Tikva for 13 years. "We can't allow for chil- dren to stay on the streets in an impossible situation. It would be easy to say, 'OK, let's make another cutback.' But now it would mean cutting into the .flesh of ot/r organization." Tikva's programs for the elderly have had to be out- sourced to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. A school about an hour outside of Odessawas closed down, with its students now commuting to the city. And the number of hot meals for children in the orphanages has been scaled back. Tikva's orphanage direc- tors say they appreciate the financial difficulties but try not to be distracted by them. "My main goal is just to give them more love, more affec- tion," said Chava Melamed, Who has been the director of the Tikva infants' home, which serves children younger than 5, for fouryears."When I came here I wanted to make this a home; not an orphanage." From the outside, the facilities appear somewhat bleak (with the exception of the new girls' home built in 2006), occupying old build- ings with gCay facades in the Moldavanka neighborhood. But inside, the facilities are filled with life: toddlers bab- bling to each other as they build Lego castles, boys with yarmulkes participating in a dance class scored, to Top 40 songs, girls lounging in a common room. Taking a break from playing a video game in a brightly lit .computer room that will soon Alex Weisler Tikva Children's Home infants' facility director Chava Melamed leads the orphanage's boys" music class. become an athletics facil- Approximately 400 of Tik- spendjustone or two months ity in the boys' home, Sasha va's graduates have moved to of the year fundraising; now Tokarev, 13, says the impact Israel, and about 70 are serv- it consumes about half of that Tikva has had on his life ing in the Israeli army. Tikva's his time. He's had some suc- cannot be overstated. -Israel branch is a separate cesses, as when he found a "For a lot of people, it's organization with an annual sponsor to fund Tikva's sum- easierfortheirparentstohave budget of about $1 million, mer camp this year, which them come here," Tokarev, Most of Tikva's funding had been canceled the two who has been at Tikva for comes from foundations and previous seasons. seven years, said through a private donors in the United When speaking to donors translator. States, United Kingdom and around the world, Kruskal There is a strong religious Israel, but Kruskal says he says he tries to remind them component to Tikva's work. recently expanded outreach that they're only a few Jew- Kruskal says Tikva believes efforts-to South Africa and ish degrees removed from "that the best for these kids Brazil, among other coun- the situation of the kids in is that they should have: a tries. Tikva's care. religious upbringing"--in Tikva does have some big- "I could have been a child these parts that means Or- name supporters. Owners of in the home, and whatwouid thodox. But Kruskai says he the apparel company Ecko I have expected for somebody doesn't fight if the children underwrote alladministrative else to do for me?" he said. begin to drift from religious costs for the Charity's Ameri- Kruskal says the Jewish observance, can fundraising operation community has a chance to While only Jewish children for many years. Among the act faster than it did 60 years are accepted in the three members of Tikva's boarl of ago in the build-up to the Tikva homes, excess clothing directors are the Ukrainian- Holocaust. is donated to Ukrainian state born Olympic figure skater "Ourjobistomakesurehis- orphanages and a large group Oksana Baiul and four-time tory doesn't repeat itself," he of local kids receive about one Olympic gold medalist Lenny said. "We shouldbe effective hot meal a month fr_om Tikva, Krayzelburg. faster than Jewry was then to according to Kruskal. Kruskal says he used to guardthesafetyofthese kids." 4, ./