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August 17, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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August 17, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 17, 2012 PAGE 13A Seeking Kin: Upcoming reunion for schoolboys in Vienna By Hillel Kuttler friend in early 1940, when great-grandchildren. Before ....... BALTIMORE (JTA)--Rob- ert Krempel and Chanoch Kelman were friends in late- 1930s Vienna. They had met through the Zionist Orthodox youth movement Brit Hanoar (Youth Covenant), belonging to a chapter that gathered on Shabbat afternoons and Sun- day mornings for discussions and sing-alongs on prestate Israel. The two boys also played soccer in the streets and visited each other's homes in the city's Second District. They discussed the terror occurring around them fol- lowing the Anschluss, Nazi Germany's 1938 annexation of Austria, when Jews around them were beaten and sent to prison, some even com- mitting suicide. The horrors reinforced their commitment to living in the land of Israel. Krempel fulfilled his dream in April 1939, sent by his par- ents to join his older brother, Wlter.,Robert Krempel soon Hebraicized his name, becom- ing Yeshayahu,Karmiel. Seventy-three years after last seeing his friend, Karmiel, now-86, wanted to know what became of Kelman. He recently took out newspaper notices, contacted the Jewish Agency for Israel, wrote to acquaintances in Belgium and was interviewed on the Israeli "Hamador L'chipus Krovim" (Searching for Relatives Bu- reau) radio !brogram. Karmiel remembers Kel- man's family moving to Belgium, but he stopped the Nazis invaded that coun- try. He didn't know whether the Kelmans made it to the United States as the parents had planned, were deported to concentration camps or survived the war. On Aug. 8, Seeking Kin found Kelman, 85. He had reached New York as a 13 -year- old and, using his secular name, Herbert, went on to become a noted sociologist at Harvard University, specializ- ing in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Kelman said he plans to meet Karmiel on a visit to Israel later this year. "It,s really amazing after all these years," Kelman said of being found. "Unfortunately, I don't remember him. I feel bad; I wish I did. But everything matches up, and I can see that the search is legitimate." After viewing the two photographs that Karmiel had provided to Seeking Kin, Kelman said the image of Karmiel looks familiar. "I have the feeling that I may have this picture--or some other picture of Rob- ert Krempel--some'where among my old photographs," he said. Karmel, meanwhile, is delighted about the prospect of seeing his childhood buddy. "I'm so excited. I'm eager to see him and, in the mean- time, to speak or exchange letters." said Karmiel, a resi- dent of Jerusalem's German Colony who with his wife, Chava, has four children, the Kelmans left Vienna, he said, the boys exchanged photographs. "To Yeshayahu, forever," Kelman wrote on the back of his picture. Karmiel recalls Kelman as a "very nice" boy who wore eye- glasses and attended Chayes Gymnasium, a Jewish school. All these years, Karmiel assumed that their correspon- dence stopped because the Nazis invaded Belgium on May 10, 1940. By then, though, Kelman already had been living in New York a month. His parents, Leo and Antonia (who later went by Lea), soon established a small grocery store near their new home in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. The Kelmans--including Herbert's older sister, Esther Ticktin, who now lives in Washington, D.C.--had fled Austria for Antwerp in late March or early April 1939. They benefited from Bel- gium's welcoming of thou- sands of Jewish refugees," including many who, like them, entered the country illegally. Peter Black, a senior his- torian at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, says the measure of Belgium "being " very generous in terms of granting asylum to Jews" fol- lowing Hitler's rise to power in 1933 is the inability to pinpoint its estimated Jew- ish 1940, From 52,000 to 90,000, Belgium represented "the largest range in Western Europe, without question," he said. Belgium's hospitality to .Courtesy Yeshayahu Karrniel Yeshayahu Karmiel (1) and Herbert "Chaoeh" Kelman, will soon see one another for the first time since 1939. that often gets forgotten," Black added. After their U.S. entry was approved, the Kelmans left Belgium by train in late March 1940. From the port of St. Nazaire, France, they boarded the SS Champlain that reached New York on April. 8 of that year. On its very next voyage, a German U-boat sank the Champlain. "I have very good memories of Vienna. I go back often," Kelman said. A few years ago, he and his wife, Rose, visited the store in central Vienna where his parents, aunt and uncle ran a fabrics business. The store had been confis- cated following the infamous pogrom that the Germans dubbed Kristallnacht. It's now Karmiel retains the last letter Kelman sent him. "I can tell you that after two years of waiting, we're traveling to America," Kei- man wrote in German. "Our friends apparently reached the Land of Israel. Please give them regards: Lidi, the Teitler brothers and Yehuda. How is your brother? Also, give regards to friends Epstein and Traum. L'hitraot [Untilwe see each other] in Israel. Yours, Chanoch." Kelman's sister added a few lines below. The letter is undated, but the one it came with was written on March 11, 1940. It was from Karmiel's widowed mother, Rose. With wartime mail service non- existent between prestate had served as the conduit for Karmiel's correspondence with Rose. The March 11 letter was the last one that Karmiel received from his mother. She was sent to the Riga ghetto in February 1942. Karmiel assumes that she was killed there. If you would like Seek- ing Kin to write about your search for long-lost relatives and friends, please include the principal facts and your contact information in a brief email to Hillel Kuttler at Seeking Kin is sponsored by Bryna Shuchat and Joshua Landes and family in loving memory of their mother and grand- mother, Miriam Shuchat, a lifelong uniter of the Jewish receiving letters from his 25 grandchildren and 31 .Jewishrefugeesis"something a gambling parlor. Israel and Austria, Kelman people. i i Down under, a furor over a Jewish publisher's article "ByDan Goldberg SYDNEY (JTA)--An ar- ticle on illegal boat people by the publisher of Australia's main Jewish newspaper has ignited a storm of protest, with some critics savaging it foi, "vilifying Muslims" and promoting "xenophobic, Islamophobic and heartless sentiments." Titled "Curb your com- passion," Robert Magid's article published in the Aug. 3 Sydney and Melbourne editions of the Australian Jewish News, argued that il- legal Muslim boat people are queue jumpers who deprive sanctuary to legitimate refugees. "The Jews who fled the Holocaust fled certain death," he wrote. "I doubt whether there is a single boat person in that position. Some may have fled a war zone or limited economic opportunities while others are seeking an easy life." Magid, a multimillionaire property developer who bought the newspaper in 2007, also accused illegal immigrants Of "destination shopping" and suggested-- despite the "collective mem- ory of Jews' attempts to es- cape the Holocaust"--that Jews curb their compassion toward boat people. He also linked asylum seekers to terrorism, sug- gesting that Muslim boat people could increase the risk of potential terror at- tacks. "If al-Qaida or another jihad organization wished to create a network of ter- rorists in Australia, undocu- mented illegal immigration would ensure the Australian authorities had no way of verifying their bona fides," he wrote. The backlash to Magid's article exploded in the blogosphere, with the vast majority of comments blast- ing what David Zyngier, whose mother survived Auschwitz and arrived here with no papers in 1949, described as Magid's "anti- Jewish sentiments." On Aug. 6, an open let- ter initiated by the left- wing Australian Jewish Democratic Society accused Magid of engaging in "group vilification and dog whistle politics" against Muslims. The letter called for an apology "to all the victims of persecution who arrived by boat." An online petition ac- crued more than 375 sig- natories as of Aug. 7, along with a deluge of withering comments such as "anti- refugee sentiments have no place in my Jewish iden- tity" and Magid used "fear, misinformation and biased language to vilify." Magid, meanwhile, is standing by his article, saying he believes that most Jews agree with him but "don't have the guts" to say it. The uproar was picked up by the mainstream media. Crikey, an independent online news agency, pub- lished a report Aug. 7 car- rying the headline "Jewish paper speaks 'hate' against Muslims, boat people," and Australia's multicultural broadcaster BS aired a report on the. fallout. The refugee debate in Aus- tralia is a political hot potato and border protection is a polarizing issue. The debate reignited in late June when about 100 boat people from Afghanistan drowned after their boats sank off the Australian coast. Australia received 1i,800 claims for asylum in 2011, according to the United Nations, compared with 441,000 claims across the globe. More than 50 boats carrying more than 4,000 asylum seekers have been intercepted by Australian authorities this year, Re- uters reported. Most of those seeking asy- lum are from Afghanistan, Iran and Sri Lanka. Jewish officials avoided entering the fray over the article. Danny Lamm, presi- dent of the Executive Coun- cil of Australian Jewry, said that, "The ECAJ stands by all aspects of its longstand- ing policy on refugees and" asylum seekers." The council's resolution supports the processing of asylum seekers "in a spirit of compassion" and urges Australians to engage in dialogue "in a considered and respectful manner and without resorting to pejora- tive generalizations." One insider, who declined to be named, said Jewish lead- ers were reluctant to weigh in because of Magid's influential position as publisher and because of the sensitivity of the subject matter. But Arnold Zable, an ' and inaccurate," it said in award-winning author and a statement. refugee advocate who says But a blogger defended he is alive today because Magid's argument by say- his mother was a queue jumper, described Magid's article as "one of the most ill-informed, factually in- accurate pieces on asylum seekers" he has ever read. "Refugees and asylum seekers are only doing what we would do in their shoes, what Jews ... have done for centuries," he said. "They are some of the most vulnerable, oppressed and traumatized peoples of our times." Mark Baker, director of the Australian Center for Jewish Civilization at Monash University in Mel- bourne, agreed. "Tens of millions ofpe0ple have faced death by genocide and war in the years since the Holocaust, yet for Robert Magid, people who risk their lives to escape crisis zones are deemed to be unworthy of our compassion," he said. "Our values and histori- cal experience call on us to stand on the side of refugees. How often have we [Jews] escaped perils by pursuing illegal immigration routes in order to survive and start a new life?" The Union for Progres- sive Judaism's Religious Action and Advocacy Center skewered Magid's general- izations. "We believe that efforts to lump together asylum seekers, refugees and ter- ing there must be a proper vetting process for refugees. "I'm not 6aying that every foreign-national is a hate- filled religious fanatic, but they do exist (just look at the European Union)," the blogger wrote. "The vetting process exists precisely for . that purpose, so that actual refugees get in." In a rebuttal to Magid, Melbourne's Ralph Genende wrote on Galus Australis, an online Jewish magazine, "Unlike Robert Magid, I do not believe there are limits to compassion. I take pride in being part of a people who put people and compass.ion first. "Australia, like Israel, is a society built on migra- tion, and if you bsorb your migrants with compassion and skill you build a stronger society both economically and ethically." Responding to the torrent of criticism, Magid said, "It's not a question of who's more compassionate. The Jews who had the gas chambers behind them w6uld have gone to any country. I feel a hell of a lot more sympa- thy for people starving in Darfur. "These are the people who should have first priority, not people who have the money and cunning to jump the queue." Magid added that Israel rorists and suggestions that - has the same problem; he label them all as deceitful lived there for a period: and criminal are both sad "It's resulting in a lot of racism in Israel," he said. "I think most Israelis would agree with me." Among the few who pub- licly defended Magid was the newspaper's editor, Zeddy Lawrence, who said Magid's article was "just one viewpoint among many we publish, most of which actu- ally tend to be a little more 'compassionate' than his." Lawrence said Magid's article was in response to a piece published in the newspaper two weeks ago by Lawrence's brother, Jeremy, the rabbi of Sydney's Great Synagogue, who wrote, "How can we be silent as lives are lost on immigration boats bound for Australia?" The rabbi continued: "It is surely incumbent upon us to acknowledge a humanitar- ian responsibility to offer safe passage and a haven to those who cannot vait." George Fink, a refugee from Vienna, said he was "desperately sad" that Magid had made such "an unchar- acteristic and flawed attack" on refugees, since Magid himself was a refugee who was born in China and his (now deceased) parents-- Ira, a Peace Now activist, and Isador, a member of the board of governors of the Jewish Agency--fled with the family from Shanghai to Melbourne. Australia has absorbed some 740,000 refugees and humanitarian asylum seekers, including about 35,000 Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe, according to the Refugee Council of Australia.