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June 1, 2018

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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 1, 2018 WASHINGTON, D.C.-- Now beginning its second decade, the Schusterman Vis- iting Israeli Artists Program will bring 10 prominent Israeli artists for residencies at top universities across the United States for the 2018-2019 aca- demic year. The University of Central Florida is one of the 10. Among the artists are Tai- seer Elias, the leading figure in classical Arab music in Israel, and Moshe Zonder, the head writer for the popular televi- sion series, Fauda. Coming to UCF is Meit- al Raz, from Jan. 2, 2019 -April 22, 2019. Raz is a director, performer, writer, and~puppeteer working in contemporary visual theater in Israel and abroad. Her award-winning "The Man in the Moon" (2016) is based on a 16th- century science fiction novel by the English Bishop Francis Godwin. With only a piece of paper, a pair of scis- sors, and some tape, Raz be- comes a British bishop, a Spanish adventurer, and the moon all at once, all the while sitting behind a small table. Such feats are typical of Raz's inventive theater works, which have been presented in Brazil, England, France, Germany, Israel, Poland, and elsewhere. The Visiting Artists Pro- gram is an initiative of the Israel Institute, a Washing- ton, D.C.-based academic institute, aimed to enhance knowledge about modern Israel by bringing Israeli filmmakers, choreographers, musicians, writers, andvisual artists to leading universities and other cultural organiza- tions in North America for residendes. The program, founded by the Charles and Lynn Schus- terman 'Family Foundation in 2008, fosters interaction between the artists and the communities in which they are based, exposing a broader audience to contemporary Israeli culture. "The Schusterman Visit- ing Israeli Artists program is the bridge between the Israel Institute's academic and cultural programming. These visiting artists provide more than just classes that teach skills; these artists provide a window into the heart of Is- rael," said Dr. Ariel Ilan Roth, executive director of the Israel Institute. "Cultural education provides insights into the fab- ric of a society in the way that other courses cannot, and the understanding of students enrolled in these classes is deeper and more enriched as a result." Since inception, the pro- gram has supported 94 residencies at colleges and universities across North America. To date, 106 artists have participated, among them a recipient of The Israel Prize, Israel's most prestigious award; an Emmy nominee; numerous recipi- ents of Israel's highest literary awards; and many winners of multiple Israeli Oscars. The nine other colleges and universities to participate in the Visiting Artists Program are the University of Florida, Gainesville; University of California, Berkeley (which Meital Raz performing. will host two artists); Oberlin College, Ohio; Trinity College, Hartford; University of Indi- ana and Ball State University; University of California, Los Angeles; San Diego State University; and Rutgers Uni- versity. 5 a was remem By.Marilyn Shapiro Melvin Weissman didn't have to fight in World War II. As a machinist for an es- sential industry, he needed permission from his company to even enlist. He was first rejected by the army as he had flat feet. But the 22-year-old was determined to fight for his county. Undeterred, Melvin, along with several of his friends, tried to enlist in the United States Army Air Corp, This time, hewas accepted, flat feet and all. When he said good- bye to his family, Weissman was overcome with emotion. "I knew I would never see my father again," Weissman Jater told his daughter, Diane Silverman. After basic training, Weiss- man was assigned as a flight engineer flying B-17s with the USAF, 94th Bomb Group, 331st Squadron, out of Bury- St. Edmunds, England. Weissman had grown up in Brooklyn, the son of Nathan and Dora Weissman, Jewish Russian immigrants. He knew that "H" for Hebrew, Jewish designation on his dog tags could cause a problem if he was captured by the Germans. He requested that his tag be changed to"P" for Protestant, to be worn on each bombing missions. Weissman and his fellow soldiers flew 10 successful missions over Germany. On his eleventh mission, however, the plane was hit. He and sev- eral soldiers jumped out the plane safely; others lost their lives when the plane crashed. When his parachute brought him into enemy territory, Weissman realized that he had accidentally worn the dog tags with the Jewish designation, the letter "H." He quickly tossed them away before a 10-year-old German boy found the scratched and bruised solider and turned him over to Nazi soldiers. During his interrogation, Weissman was asked ques- tions in English from a commander. In the same room, behind a screen, was another commander telling the interrogator in German what questions to ask the captured soldier. Because his parents spoke Yiddish in their house, Weissman understood the Germans and knew the questions ahead of time. To further hide his Jewish identity, he gave his name as "Veismann," a more German form of his Jewish name. Weissman was sent to Sta- lag 17-B, where he remained a prisoner of war from Jan. 11, 1944, to May 3, 1945. While he was in prison camp, a neighbor of the Weissmans heard a blurb on the radio that Staff Sargent Melvin Weissman had been captured. His father, who was in failing health, said the he would be- lieve this was true only when he heard from his oldest son. A letter finally came to their Brooklyn address on April 2, 1944. Nathan Weissman died the next day. Weissman's premonition had come true. "My aunts told me he was just waiting to hear that Melvin was ok," said Diane. In April 1945, as the warwas coming to a close, 4,000 of the POWs at Stalag 17-B began an 18-day march of 281 miles to Braunau, Austria. The remain- ing 900 men were too ill to make the march and were left behind in the hospitals. These men were liberated on May 9, 1945. Those who survived the death march were finally rescued by American troops. Weissman and his fellow liberated soldiers were shipped home to New York City. While sailing, Weissman was taken ill. When he arrived, he walked down the gang plank where doctors, pulling him aside, put a giant yellow J on his shirt. When he asked how they knew he was Jewish, they laughed. "We don't know if you're Jew- ish," they said. "But we DO know you are jaundiced." Weissman spent three months in a hospital in New Jersey recovering from his im- prisonment and subsequent illness. When a rabbi came in to tell Weissman that his father was dead, Weissman said, "I know. My mother and sisters never mentioned him in his letters, but I knew I was saying my last goodbye to him when I left for basic training." Once hewas healthy, Weiss- man returned home and got a job as a machinist for Templet Industries in Brooklyn, New York. He met Sylvia Laskowitz in January 1948. They were married six months later, on June 27,1948. Their daughter Mona was born 15 months later, and their second child, Diane, was born in 1953. Diane remembers a happy childhood, marred only by quirks that she attributes to his status as a POW. "Dad was not a very trusting per- son except for his wife and two daughters," said Diane. Although he never spoke about his war experiences while she lived at home, Diane remembers hearing her father cry out in his sleep. She often found him sitting on the edge of the bed, covered in sweat. Diane did her best to soothe him, to try to help him move past his nightmares. By 2007, Sylvia, his wife of 58 years, and Mona had both passed away. Weissman had severe heart problems and reoccurring bouts of post traumatic stress disorder. As he was no longer able to live alone, Diane and her husband, Mark, moved him into their home in Clifton Park, New York. More war stories started coming out. Weissman talked about his time in the camp. Conditions may have been difficult for American soldiers, but he spoke sadly of the treatment given to Russian and Polish POW's. He also recounted his long days on the death march and his rescue. By 2010, Alzheimers had set Melvin Weissman as a young soldier. in, andWeissman becamevery combative, "a tortured soul." After some violent episodes in which he threatened Diane physically, she and Mark made arrangement to move him to Albany Stratton VA Medical Center. Three days before he was to make the move, Diane found her father dissolved in tears. "What is wrong, Daddy?" Diane asked. "I killed a man!" sobbed her father. Weissman on page 15A By Lisa Levine George Braunstein is a member of a storied group whose numbers dwindle as each Memorial Day passes: Jewish American veterans of World War II. As he ap- proaches his 95th birthday, the Kinneret resident is proud to have been one of the interview subjects of the recent documentary "G.I. Jews," which aired on PBS in April. Although his interview was not included in the final documentary, it was used as a promotional teaser and can be found on YouTube. A frequent and lively participant in Jewish Pavilion programs at Kinneret, Braunstein is known for putting aside his walker to dance when there's music and for sur- rounding himself with his "lady friends." Braunstein entered the U.S. Army in August 1943 when he was 19, after defer- ring for a year to help his family as its sole support. Throughout his service, Braunstein continued to send most of his Army pay- check home, keeping only $5 a month, the minimum the Army would allow. PFC Braunstein was shipped off to Marseilles, France, in October 1944 as a member of the 103rd Infantry Divi- sion, led by the famous Maj. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe. As infantry, he was transferred straight to the front lines. "We had to replace soldiers who'd been up there," Braun- stein said. "And when they came and passed us, as we're going down and they're going up, they looked so haggard and dirty and tired." After a short time on the front lines himself, he said, "I looked in the mirror and I looked dirty and tired, just like they did!" He was wounded in a battle in Alsace, France, just short of the German border, when he was hit in the neck by shrapnel flying from a bombed church steeple. When he recovered, he was sent to fight in the Battle of the Bulge, a fierce and high- casualty battle in Belgium that was the German army's last major offensive on the Western front, in December 1944 and January 1945. In the spring, he was among the troops that made the final move into Germany and forced their surrender. His unit crossed the Rhine and moved into Bavaria, part of the forces that liberated the Dachau concentration camp in late April 1945. Just before the end of the war in Europe, Braunstein's unit crossed into Austria on tanks, encounteringAustrian coun- try folk who had been largely untouched by the ravages of the war. "All we saw was white sheets. They all surrendered," he said. As he did in his interview for "G.I. Jews," Braunstein recently remarked on the anti-Semitism he encoun- tered in the Army: "I had to deal with people who never knew a Jewish boy, and they had different ideas about them." His easy, bantering style, honed in the melting pot of New York's Lower East Side, won most of them over. "I was always having a good time with them," he said. Braunstein is proud to be a Jewish WWII vet. "There are very few of us that are still around," he said. "We're American first, but also we have allegiance to Israel, because Israel stands as a nation of Jewish people, which we didn't have before World War II." He recalls being moved as he said the Pledge of Allegiance in school as a boy, and he remains very patriotic to this day. The Jewish Pavilion en- tertains and brings Jewish culture to seniors like Braun- stein in facilities throughout Central Florida. Itsstaff and volunteers celebrate and enrich the lives of members of The Greatest Generation--on Memorial Day and throughout the year. For information on donat- World War H veteran George Braunstein loves to dance at Jewish Pavilion programs at Kinneret. ing or volunteering, go to or call 407-678-9363.