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May 17, 2013

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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 17, 2013 By Rafad Medoff During his visit to China lastweek, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recalled that the city of Shanghai was "one of the few places that opened its gates" to Jews fleeing Hitler. Officials of the Chinese Comm~nist government, standing nearby, beamed with pleasure at the expectation that people all over the w~rld would read how their regime rescued Jews. But is it true? As the prime minister noted, the port city of Shanghai was a haven for many European Jewish refugees during the Hitler years, at a time when most other countries, including the United States, closed their doors to all but a fortunate few. It is important to note that much of Chinawas under Japanese military occupation from 1931 until 1945, and immigration to Shanghai was controlled by the Japanese government, not the Chinese. The Japaflese, hoping to improve their relations with the U.S. and the American Jewish community, permittedabout20,000 GermanandAustrian Jews to settle in Shanghai during the 1930s. By David Suissa Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles In a crummy economy, people are always looking for good investments--a promising stock, a real estate opportunity, a star mutual fund. It's really not that different in the "mitzvah economy"--donors and do-gooders are also look- ingto squeeze the maximumamount of goodness out of every charity investment. Onthat note, rdlike to sharewithyouamitzvah that has a ridiculously low investment and an incredibly high return. It's a mitzvah called shmooze. I think oft.his mitzvah every time I'm stuck in freeway traffic and I call my mother in Montreal. Nine times out of 10, especially during the long winter months, the first words out of her mouth will be (in French): "Ah, mon ills, je pensait jus- tement toi!" (Oh, my son, I was just thinking of you!). You see, my mother has this ciuirkwhen it comes to phones: When she hears a ring, she always picks up. She's not big on screening calls. She doesn't make those quick calculations of whether such and such person is worth talking to. I've never asked her this, but it wouldn't surprise me if she shmoozes with telemarketers who pitch her great deals on ink toners. Ever since my fatherpassed away 10 years ago, the ring of the phone in my mother's home has come to symbolize the promise of human contact. Whereas for me it might mean an unwanted inter- ruption, for my mother it is a welcomed trumpet that announces the interruption of loneliness. I try to interrupt that loneliness as often as I can. It helps that our conversations are light and breezy and require little concentration on my part. It's as if we have this unwritten agreement that if she'll go easy on me with the questions, I'll stay on as long as she likes (or until I get to my "meeting"). Sometimes I'll be in a silly moodand make her crack up. I might tell her something funny one of my kids said. Occasionally, we might talk about a serious family matter, and she'll weigh in with her suggestions (read: orders). But typically, we'll just shmooze about family stuf: How are the kids doing? (Baruch Hashem.) Is Noah getting taller? (I think so.) Who's cooking for Shabbat? (I don't know yet--probably Mia.) Did you tell the housekeeper you won't need her next Wednesday? (I will, I promise.) Do you speak to your sister? (All the time.) And how about your brother? (Yes, on email.) From my end, I will lob back questions about her health ("How's your knee?") or I'll ask about This immigration was made possible in part by presidentofSoochowUniversity.Whi!elivinginthe false documents given to Jews by the Dutch consul in Lithuania, Jan Zwartendijk, and by transit visas to Japan provided, without official sanction, by Ja- pans acting consul-general in Lithuania, Sugihara Chiune. Officially thevisaswere good for only eight to 12 days, butthe Japanese authorities allowed the refugees to remain in Japan for up to eight months until they found other destinations. Many went to Shanghai, including 500 rabbis and students (and their families) from the famous Mir Yeshiva. Beginning in 1943, most of the Jews in Shang- hai were confined to a two-square-mile section of the city known as the Restricted.Area. Conditions were harshbut certainly not comparable to what Jews suffered in Europe. These Jews were saved from the Holocaust because of Japan's--not China's--policies. There were several individual Chinese citizens who came to the aid Of the Jews during the Holo- caust. Buttheywere nationalists, not Communists; they were associated with the anti-Communist forces led by Chang Kai-Shek, who later lost the Chinese civil war and fled to Taiwan in 1949. Onewas Dr. LiYuYing, aprominentscholarand Shabbat plans ("Will you be with*Judy, Sandra or Samy?'). Our favorite subject, of course, is travel, and it consists mostly of two questions: "When are you coming to Montreal?" and "When can you come to Los Angeles?" Afterabout 15 minutes or so, we're usually ready to wrap up. We throw in a few words of caution (Me:"Pleasewatchthe steps!" Her:"Pleasebe care- ful!"), some tender sentiments ("IZdss everyone" and"I love you"), and, voil t, it's, "Goodbye Meme, I'll speak to you very soon." But as I run offto another meeting, Meme hangs up and goes back to an empty house. The difference, though, is that now, in that empty house, the words of our conversation will echo pleasantly in her consciousness. She'll be thinking about all the good stuffwe talked about. That's because words that interrupt loneliness have a time-release quality. They keep ringing gently in one's ears long after the phone has stopped ringing. I invest 15 minutes in sweet shmoozir g, and, in return, I get hours of motherly joy. Wouldn't you call that a good investment? The truth is, you don't have to be related to someone to offer good conversation--in fact, it could be an advantage not to be related. So, I wonder: How many elderly Jews are there in our sprawling community who spend their days alone and could use a good shmooze? Why not twin those elderly Jews with younger Jews who could put a spark in their day with some lively conversation? It's amitzvah thatworksbothways: The elderly have great wisdom and stories to share, which could enrich anyone's day. The beauty is that it's simple. No event planning, no shlepping----just a phone call. Multiply that by a few thousand calls and that's a lot of loneliness interruption. Every community can start their own schmooze project. You need a good organizer, of course, to recruit people and coordinate all the vetting. But the basic idea is not complicated: volunteer "shmoozers" get a short list of willing elderly "friends" to call on a regular basis. In the meantime, now that Mother's Day is gone, don't wait for Father's Day to call your parents or grandparents, or anyone else you know who can use a good shmooze. Especially for people fighting loneliness, one little call can brighten up a whole day. Like my motherwouldsay, nowthat abargain David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./ Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@ jewish THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. # CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE # x 1SSN~ Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Mike Etzkin Kim Fischer Society Editor Bookkeeping Gloria Yousha Paulette Alfonso HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (1SN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, EO. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. Account Executives Barbara do Carrno Marci Gaeser Contributing Columnists Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky David Bornstein Ed Ziegler MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Production Department Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 David Lehman David Gaudio email: Elaine Schooping Gil Dombrosky Caroline Pope United States in the 1940s, he served as one of the co-chairmen of the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe (better known as the Bergson Group), an activist movement that held rallies, lobbied in Washington, DC, and sponsored hundreds of full-page newspaper advertisements promoting rescue of Jews from the Nazis. Dr.Ying had previously served the Chang Kai-Shek govern- ment in several capacities, including as Chinas representative to League of Nations meetings. Two other Chinese citizens have been honored by Yad Vashem for assisting Jews during the Nazi era. O ne was Pan-Jun- Shun, who move d from China to Russia in 1916 (i.e. more than-thirty years before the Communists took over in China). He was living in the city of Kharkov, in the Soviet Ukraine, when the Germans invadedin 1941 Pan saved a Jewish girl named Ludmilla Genrichovna from the Nazi round-ups by hiding her in his home. The other Chinese rescuer was Dr. Feng Shan Ho, whoservedas Chinas consul-generalinVienna from 1938 to 1940. He issued unauthorized visas to Jews trying to escape Nazi-controlled Austria, enabling them to reach the safety of Shanghai. Dr. Ho represented the Chang Kai-Shek government. And after the nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1949, he served as Taiw n's ambassador to Egypt, Mexico, and other countries. When Dr. Ho was posthumously honored by Yad Vashem in 2001, the Communist Chinese ambassador attended the ceremony--and insisted that the ambassador from Taiwan be excluded. The Beijing government-controlled press gave prominent coverage to the honoring of rio, whom it identified as "a Chinese diplomat," erroneously implying that he was associated with the Beijing By Ira Sharkansky Thelatestnumbers aboutthe 2-year-old Syrian civil war are 80,000 deaths, one million refugees over the borders in Jordan; Turkey and Lebanon, and a total of four million displaced Syrians either over the borders or away from thei homes in Syria. As always, we must be suspicious about round numbers published by organizations with an interest in portraying the carnage. Nonetheless, by all-the indications, the death, dislocation and destruction have been great. Perhaps greater than Afghanistan, and more than in every other Muslim country since the onset of this century except for Iraq,where the round number estimates are exceeding one million deaths. The Syrian story is entirely one of Muslims killing and dislocating Muslims, leaving aside the dozen or so who may have been killed by Israeli air strikes against the transfer of weapons to HezboUah. Not so long agSit was common to estimate the remaining life of the Assad regime in days or months, but now reports tell of its resurgence, aided by thousands of Hezbollah troops, and taking back areas that had been lost to rebels There is no end in sight, with continuedaid from Russia, Hezbollah and Iran, and the Chinese and Russians blockingsignificantdecisions by the U.N. i Security Council. Assad's forcesappear tobebetter organized than the numerous groups of rebels, some of whom have been fighting one another. Who cares? That is a significant question. The heads of other regimes are doing little more than lament the death and destruction. Barack Obama threatened retaliation if Assad employed chemical weapons, then mumbled his way out of any commitment. The head of the Turkish government spoke about a forceful response when he claimed that Syrians were responsible for explosions in refugee camps on Turkish soil, but a day later adopted the Obama posture of avoiding involvement. Lots of worthies ought to care, if only on ac- count of the destruction of people, resources and the governmental institutions of Syria, as well as likely spillovers that threaten its neighbors. Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are already feeling the impact of refugees.All of those countries have restive sectors, with renewed civil war in Lebanon always a tickaway.Assad has threatened to unleash his Palestinian refugees to attack Is elis on the Golan Heights, and the IDF says it is prepared for whatever happens. EvenThomas F.riedman of The NeWYorkTimes has been sobered by the evolution of Arab Spring that he once cheered as the onset of democracy. Most recently he comes close to admitting he was wrong. Or at least he now sees a difference between the shift from autocracy to democracy in Eastern Europe to the move from autocracy to bloody chaos driven by religious and tribal hatreds in Iraq, Syria and perhaps elsewhere in the Middle East. regime. It is not hard tounderstandwhy Beijing's rulers would fa!selyseektotake credit forwhat the Chinese nationalists and the Japanese did to help the Jews. Xu Kuangdi, an official of a government agency called the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, explained after visiting the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum last fall, "The spreading of this story plays an active role in promoting the understandingand friendshipbetweenthe Chinese and people from all over the world." Translation: It's good PR for the regime, and it stimulates tourism, especially by foreign Jews interested in seeing the old Shanghai ghetto area--the same reason the Chinese government installed a kosher kitchen at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. And Chinas leaders are determined to keep up appearances: a government website reports that a Beijing official who visited the Shanghai museum "put his hand on the escalator, and when he casually raised the hand, he saw itwas still spotlessly clean. Then, he looked back at the head [of the museum] with a satisfied smile... The two Sanitation Aunts are very industrious... Whenever visitors come to the Museum, they would see the two Aunts busy with their job." Sanitizing the museum is one thing. Sanitizing history is another. Chairman Mao was not some kind of Asian Raoul Wallenberg. His followers are not the ones who deserve the credit for the Shang- hai haven, or for the brave efforts of individual Chinese citizens who rescued Jews from the Nazis. D~. Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Stud- ies, His latest book is 'FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith.' Friedman writes back and forth on Iraq. It is the place he would like forget but cannot. After a bad start, he credits the U.S. for putting in place a government that was promising, but has not delivered. Almost always the optimist and American patriot, he is hopeful of the rise of an enlightened party in Syria that comes to power with outside help, yet he says that his own president is wise in staying out of the fray. More likely the fighting will continue with no winner until all sides are exhausted. What then? We'll have to wait for a Friedman prophecy yet to come. Israeiis dare not overlook the bloodshed and instability right over the border, with all sides agreeing that Israel is the enemy. An IDF gen- eral warned that the Golan would no longer be a safe venue for tourists. Northern resorts have not shown signs of distress, but the military has upped its preparations in the area, including the movement of anti-missile batteries to protect Safed and Haifa. Hezbollah's leader Hassan NasraUah speaks much of the time from his underground bunker, where he threatens Israel with more death and destruction than it has ever experienced. All this is occurring along with budget dis- cussions that have focused on Finance Ministry proposals of Guts in most domestic outlays, and a cut of about eight percent in the overall budget of the Defense Ministry. That produced a meeting between the Finance Minister, Prime Minister, Defense Minister, and the IDF commander that be- gan in the afternoon and recessed after midnight withouta decision. Presumably on the agendawas Syria, Iran and the Sinai as a place for launching missiles uncontrolled by Egypt and unreachable by Israel unless it wants to violate its peace treaty with Egypt and threaten who knows what. Saturday evening saw perhaps 12,000 polite middle class protesters marching against the prospects of budget cuts and tax increases that would impact them. That is another round num- ber estimated by activists and media personalities inclined to hype the drama. Itwas a long way from the200,000 saidto demonstratetwosumrnersago, but more are promised for next week. The Defense portion of the budget is not only complex, but much of secret and parts come to security services from governmental units outside the boundaries of the Defense Ministry. One com- mentator speculated in the midst of government discussionsthat therewouldbe areduction, perhaps not to the extent proposed by the Finance Minis- ter, but it would not matter. Moneys cut could be replaced in mid-year without publicity in order to avoid challenging the Finance Minister's posture of being resolute. Any uptick in the threats from one or another hostile source would allow the IDF and other security services to go beyond their budgets, with the Finance Ministry having to redo its projections about deficits, debt, borrowing and future outlays to cover the costs. Ira Sharkansky professor emeritus, Depart- ment of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. #