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October 28, 2011     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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October 28, 2011
 

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 28, 2011 PAGE .3A UCF Judaic scholar participates in conference & Poland An academic conference of Hebrew Studies scholars "from Europe and Israel in Poland on the third week of September may have signaled that Hebrew scholarship has come back to the country that was home to Hebrew language and literature activities and Jewish learning for many generations. University of Central'Flor- ida Judaic studies professor Moshe Pelli participated in the World Congress of the Hebrew Language that was sponsored by the Brit Ivrit Olamit, the World Hebrew As- sociation. The conference was cosponsored by and held at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland, and the Hebrew Philological Institute of Higher Learning in Torun, Poland. It was also supported by the Jewish National Fund in Jerusalem and the World Zionist Organization: Scholars from Israel's He- brew University, Tel Aviv University, Ben Gurion Uni- versity and Haifa University presented scholarly papers on Hebrew language and literature; as did European universities from the Univer- sity of Paris 8 and universities of Florence, Milano, Prague, Warsaw, Krakow and Poznan. Among the topics dis- cussed: Teaching Hebrew to Polish students; translation of Hebrew fiction in Poland; Hebrew on Polish soil; transla- tion of H.N. Bialik into Polish; trips to Poland in Hebrew literature; the Hebrew press in Palestine; Foreign words in Hebrew; trends in modern Israeli fiction. As part of the conference, Polish scholars, instructors at Polish universities and graduate students, presented scholarly papers, making their contribution to Hebrew and Jewish corpus of scholarship. Professor Pelli, Abe and Tess Wise Endowed Professor of Judaic Studies, presented a paper on "The Printing Press as Instrument of Dis- seminating Haskalah: Anton Schmid's Publishing of Clas- sical and Haskalah Books in Vienna." He also reported on the activities of the .National Association of Professor of Hebrew in the USA, of which he is an immediate past UCF professor Moshe Pelli stands by a plaque installed by the city hall, commemorating Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer, in Torun, Poland. president, and discussed the JewishKehillahofPoznanand past activities of the demised the City of Poznan held recep- HistadruthIvrithofAmerica. tions for the participants of a sister association of the theonferenceattheKehillah sponsor Brit Ivrit Olamit, of Center and at the City Hall. which he wrote its history in respectively. During the Nazi his book "Hebrew Culture in occupation of Poland, they America: 80 Years of Hebrew destroyed the local synagogue Culture in the United States and built in its place a swim- 1916-1996" (1997). ruing pool. The place is now Poznan was known in the used for Jewish activities and 19th century for its rabbinic meetings, serving the small halachin authority, Rabbi Jewish community. Akiva Eiger (1761-1837). The On the third day, the confer- Author, columnist Dawson put:s- By Pamela Ruben Special to the Heritage You may know Orlando Sentinel columnist Greg Dawson from his consumer advocacy column in The Orlando Sentinel titled "The Last Resort," where he helps mediate between companies and dissatisfied consumers. Ironically, Greg's mother, Zhanna Arshanskaya Daw- son, a Jewish girl from the Ukraine, was truly at her last resort from 1941-1945, when she survived the Holocaust as a piano playing prodigy, passing as a gentile, with falsified papers. Zhanna, who used the alias, Anna Morozova, kept alive bY playing the piano for Nazi and SS officers in Germany and throughout European war zones. Zhanna made it throUgh this unbearable existence by relying on the last words her father told her, "I don't care what you do, just live." For his sake, for her younger sister Frina (who changed her name to Ma- rina), who remained in her care throughout World WaT II, she did what was neces- sary to survive, Remarkably, Greg Dawson did not learn of his mother's incredible story until he was an adult. In 2009, he re-told her story in a book, "Hiding in the Spotlight." On Sunday, Nov. 6, the documentary film, "Shar- ing in the" Spotlight," which focuses on the Dawson family's shared experience, will premiere at the Florida Holocaust Center on the anniversary of Kristallnacht (the-'night of broken glass). The film discusses Zhanna's Wartime experiences and will be enhanced through a discussion session with Zhanna, Greg, his wife Candy and their daughter, Aimee. Greg explains that writing "Hiding in the Spotlight" presented challenges to his spotlight on Ukrain e Greg Dawson with his book in the lobby of The Orlando Sentinel. usually light writing style. He rotes, 'Books about the HoloCaust ar e usually writ- ten by survivors or histori- ans. I wanted my mother's story told, so I put aside my whimsical tone, and my wife, Candy, helped keep me in check whenever I lightened my approach." Greg's skill in telling the story is sup- ported by the book's five-star rating on Amazon.com and strong review on the website goodreads.com. .... At the war's end, Zhanna and Frina were rescued by Larry Dawson, a U.S. Army serviceman who liberated them. Larry planned to adopt the two sisters and bring them to America. Zhanna eventually fell in love and married Larry's brother, David, a musical prodigy who graduated from the Juilliard School of Music. Both Zhanna and Frina later attended Juiiliard. The young couple joined the music department at In- diana University, where they raised afamily of no particular  religious faith. Greg adds, "My parents' friends from the mu- sic department were mostly Jewish. We were surrounded by Jewish music, humor and culture. In addition, when my father attended Juilliard, all his Jewish friends would take him home on the weekends and feed him chicken soup, My mother used to say, 'My father was the best Jew she knew.!" Despite all the Jewish cul- ture in their midst, Zhanna could not bear to share the details of her own horrific adolescence with her chil- dren. Greg did not become aware of his Jewish heritage until he was 16 years old. The whole story did not come out until many years later, when Greg was a grown man with a family, and his daughter, Aimee, was given an assign- ment by her middle school teacher. "Aimee was asked to interview a grandparent about what life was like when they were of middle school age," Greg says. ,'At the time, my mother was the only grandparent lefL" Much to his surprise, Zhanna wrotedown four pages of text for Aimee, de- tailing her life under the Nazi regime. "Once my mother began telling her story," Greg says "she wante, d ev- eryone to know. She did a taping for Steven Spielberg's Shoah Project, and later we discussed putting together- a book." Greg wanted to make sure his mother's extraor- dinary story was told, and also wanted to set history straight about the devasta- tion of Ukrainian Jewry dur- ing World War II. Greg had no issues holdihg back his jocular writer's voice, as he shared the fate of the Jews of Kharkov, both his mother's hometown and the historical Jewish center of the Ukraine. Greg explains that most are not aware of the fate of Ukrai- nian Jews because most were slaughtered early in the war, and there were few survivors to share their tales. "Follow- ing the war Stalin erected the Iron Curtain," says Greg, "and little information flowed outside of Russia." Chapter nine and 10 of "Hiding in the Spotlight" outlines the horrors of Drobitsky Yar, when each known Jewish (no known gentiles) living man, woman UCF professor attended a conference of the Hebrew La- naguage in Poznan and Torun, Poland. ence moved to Torun. where a - newly formed Haskala Foun- dation has established the Hebrew Philological Institute of Higher Learning in Torun. which will undertake to teach the Hebrew language. In that city, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer (1795-1874), one of the precursors of re- ligious Zionism, lived from 1823 until his death. In 1825 he was appointed rabbi in Torun. In his book,"Derishat Zion" [The Search for Zion] (1866), considered to be the forerun- ner of Religious Zionism, Ka- lischer advocated returning of the Jews to the land of Israel and actively settling it. The city fathers acknowl- edged Kalischer's contribu- tion to the history of Zionism and modern Judaism and erected a commemorative plaque on the building where he lived. Talking about Jewish Studies in Poland, it should be noted that a. few years ago, Orlando's Tess Wise was instrumental in establishing the Centre for Holocaust Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. The university launched a De- partment of Holocaust Stud- ies where teachers enrolled and are trained to teach the Holocaust in the public schools. Do Jews talk turkey? Temple Israel's series, "Con- versations With the Rabbi," continues at 4 p.m. Sunday, and child from the cityof Nov. 6 at Barnie's Coffee & Kharkov was executed by gunfire over open ravines, including Greg's maternal randparents Dmitri and Sara Arshanskaya. Greg explains that these masskill- ings happened before any of the gas chambers were even built. "These killings were so gruesome," says Greg, ,even for the Nazis, that they led to use of the gas chambers, which 'sanitized' the reality of mass death." Greg's curiosity about Ukrainian history has led him to write a second book, "Judgment Before Nurem- berg," that has not yet been released. He shares that t is not widely known that the Ukraine was the site of post-war Nazi trials prior to the infamous Nuremberg tri- als. His goal is to "set history straight, while searching for the killers of my family." How has the discovery of his Jewish roots impated Greg Dawson? He says, "I am more self-aware. Re-.. member, by the time I knew the details; I was' almost 30 and was an established newspaper writer and family man. Zhanna's situation was clearly way beyond what any sane person would consider "The Last Resort." From the perspective of a writer, I thought my mother's history was amazing and astonishing, and worthy of the spotlighL" The documentary, "Shar- ing in the Spotlight" will pre- miere at 2 p.m. Nov. 6at the JCC Auditorium sponsored by the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida. For more information call 407-628- 0555. For more information on Dawson's book, visit www. hidinginthespotlight.com. TeC0., 46-46 New Broad St. in Baldwin Park. Rabbi Joshua Neely's topic will Ie "Do Jews Talk Turkey? Secular Holidays in a Sacred Tradition." The community is invited to attend. There is no charge. For more information, call the synagogue office at 407-647-3055 or visit Temple Israel's website, www. tiflorida.org. Rabbi Joshua Neely Faces of hunger Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando will participate in the Faces of Hunger program, sponsored by the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando at 7 p.m. Nov. 3. Eric Geboff, JFS executive director, will represent JFS on the panel. Faces of Hunger will address the growing and invis- ible problem of hunger in Central Florida and ways by which community members can help alleviate the problem. The program will be held at Congregation Ohev Shalom, 613 Concourse Parkway S. in Maitland. For more information, visit: http://www.orlando- jewishfed.org/page.aspx?id=247019. . . . . .. Special Shabbat at Bet Chaim Congregation Bet Chain in Casselberry is hosting a special Shabbat weekend, featuring Rabbi Howard Simon. The weekend kicks off with a dinner at 6:15 p.m. today with the rabbi. The menu was planned by Del Dio Restaurant. Dinner is followed by 8 p.m. Friday Shabbat Service. The next day begins at 10:30 a.m. with a special program by Simon, followed by brunch, which costs $3 per person. The rabbi's program will be Jewish Humor--The Key To Jewish Survival--What It Means, How It Affects Us and Why We Laugh." Enough worrying, enough kvetching, enough of dire headlines--it's time to laugh and to think," says Simon. The rabbi says he guarantees your laughter, and he promises that you will do some serious thinking about the importance of Jewish humor. Simon says to bring a favorite Jewish story with you to share with one and all. For more information: www.betchaim.org.