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June 13, 2014     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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PAGE 10A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 13, 2014 Approximately 150 Russian Jewish Red Army veterans showed up for nouncement of a new holiday celebrating the 1945 liberation of European By Julie Wiener NEW YORK (JTA)--Sol Lapidus earned the Order of Lenin, the Soviet Union's highest medal, for his role as a partisan fighter in the Belarussian forest during World War II. Lapidus proudly wore the bronze-and-red medal pinned to his suit jacket last Wednes- day at the United Nations, where he joined approximately 150 mostly white-haired Jew- ish Red Army veterans, their lapels festooned with similar decorations. The small army of aged veterans had gathered to make history again, to announce whatwas billed as the creation of a new Jewish holiday: "Res- cue Day of European Jewry." Inspired by Russia's Victory Day, which marks the anni- versary of Germany's official surrender on May 9, 1945, the new holidaywill be marked on the 26th of Iyar, the Hebrew date on which the surrender took place. For years, Victory Day has been celebrated not just in Russia but in countries with major Russian emigre popula- tions, including Israel. Rescue Day grew out of an international coalition of Shahar Azran osef Sosna performed counterespionage work for the Red Army during World War II, beginning his train- ing at age 17. Shahar Azran the official an- Jewry. Russian Jewish groups, in- cluding the American Forum of Russian-Speaking Jews and the STMEGI Foundation, whose activists approached Jewish leaders around the world to call for a global Jewish recognition of the liberation. The activists won the support of Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal, the World Zion- ist Organization, the Israeli government, Israel's Chief Rabbinate and chief rabbis from Europe. "Some people have been asking if we need to do an- other holiday besides May 9~ but these people who spilled blood deserve to be thanked 365 times a year," said Igor Branovan, president of the American Forum of Russian Speaking Jewry. "This genera- tion is not going to be around much longer." Indeed, most of the veter- ans at lastWednesday's official announcement--hosted by Israel's U.N. mission in a room with dramatic views of the East River--were 80- and 90-somethings, many relying on canes and walkers. Some arrived in full Soviet military uniform. Widows wore their late husbands' medals. From the front of the room, a violinist played Russian songs. Later, a woman led the crowd, seated at round tables, in "Katyusha," the Russian war song after which the rocket launcher is named. These immigrants from the former Soviet Union are among the dwindling ranks of those who fought in the Great Patriotic War, as World War II is called in Russia. Several said they had been drafted at age 17, when the war began, and continued fighting until the end. Speaking through an in- terpreter, Yosef Kruglyak, dressed in his navy uniform, said he served as a sailor and gunner for seven years in the Black Sea. From a family of 10 children--his mother was a "Mother Hero," an honor the Soviets gave to encourage high birth rates--he lost two brothers to the battlefield and several family members to the Holocaust. "The members of my family that survived all left Belarus three days before the Nazis came," he said. Yosef Soma, also using an interpreter, said, "I wish there would be no more wars in the world." Asked what was most dif- ficult for him during World War II, Sosna, who~.worked in counterespionage, men- tioned a battle in Sevastopol "with a lot of losses" and the difficulty of guarding a group of captured German soldiers between 1943 and 1944. Sosna, who at 17 was sent to a Khabarovsk academy for two years of counterespio- nage training, spent the war identifying Nazi spies on the front and reporting them to the authorities. After the war he stayed in the Soviet army, Information 866.742.6655 www.cm e h z e.org www .erg/ MEDICARE, MEDICAID, AND MOST COMMERCIAL INSURANCES ACCEPTED 5019096 omerstone becomingamajorin1955.The that because everyone was Ukraine native immigrated fighting for the same rea- to the United States in 1997. son," Sosna said. "Also, I was He said he did not experi- in counterespionage, so if ence any anti-Semitism dur- someone had anti-Semitic ing the war. thoughts, they were afraid to "There was nothing likeshare them with me." Keith Allison via Wikimedia Commons NBA Lakers" forward~center Pau Gasol. (JNS.org) National Basket- be here," the Spanish-born ball Association (NBA) star Gasol said, Reuters reported. Pau Gasol met with Israeli "I believe sport is an amaz- President Shimon Peres in ing tool for bringing people Jerusalem on Sunday along together." with a group of Jewish and Gasol is a four-time NBA Arab basketball players. The All-Star and has been part of 33 -year-old LosAngeles Lakers two championshipseasons for forward/centerwasmakinghis the Lakers. first trip to Israel, for a basket- Peres said,"In sport, people ball workshop meant to pro- learn to play without dis- mote peace and coexistence, crimination and in the spirit "I am extremely happy to of fairness." Sharing the Israeli culture Jewish Pavilion volunteers help bring the Jewish community to the doorsteps of seniors in long-term care. Recently, volunteer Cathy Swerdlow presented residents at the Mayflower Retirement Community with an informative session about the culture, language, holidays and geographical facts about Israel. Many residents expressed to Nancy Ludin, executive director of the Jewish Pavilion, and to Swerdlow how pleased they were with the event and information imparted. Shown here is Jewish Pavilion intern Christian Rich and Mary, a resident of the Mayflower.