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November 29, 2013     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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November 29, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 29, 2013 PAGE 15A bby Diplomatic relations een for the children and take Bo There are also receptions them on "field trips." Last From page 1A and conferences he is expected year he and Julie took all 28 to attend. His most recent children in the orphanage to 100 American and local corn- conference was about cyber- EuroDisney. panies to find out how they security where he had the op- A host with the most conduct business and discuss portunityto discuss common This magnanimous am- any challengestheymayface, problems and develop new bassador has managed to especially internationally. He partnerships, successfully blend work with also visits schools and has One of Mandelrs priori-pleasure as he connects with conversations with students ties when he took office was Luxembourgers. about U.S. culture, to see if he could increase "I am having over a group He spent his first year the exports from the U.S. to of basketball players in a few in Luxembourg speaking Luxembourg. In the past five weeks and we will have ha- at every high school in the years, U.S. exports have in- chos, hot dogs and popcorn," country -a total of 45--and creased thanks to successive he said."Wewill have my staff one university. With each deliveries to Cargoluxoftheir talk about a number of issues class, he discussed the role order of the new-generation in U.S. sports as well as about of the U.S. Army inWWII in Boeing 747-8F (freighter) sportsscholarshipstostudyin Luxembourg. aircraft, of which they were America." "I spoke to them about the the launch customerstarting He also holds a kosher average 18-year-oldAmerican in 2005. So the type of export Passover seder dinner each soldierwhodidnotevenknow isthesame, but the value has year and invites community where Luxembourg was, but increased, leaders and the archbishop, knew that the right thing to Plans are in the works as well as the Islamic Shura do was to fight for freedom, for what he calls "The Lux- leaders. knowing full well that he embourg Forum," which "I held my first Iftar dinner might pay the ultimate price, will bring together the U.S. this year and really enjoyed I encouraged the students to Supreme Court andtheEuro- that as well. It's a break fast visit the U.S. Military Cem- pean Court of Justice in 2014. for the Muslims during their etery where 5,076 American "We are very excited about Ramadan season. So, in the heroes are buried, including bringing together the best house the Nazi's used as General Patton. Those soldiers legal minds in the U.S. and their HQ in WWII, it seems died at the famous WWII Europe to discuss synergies a sort of poetic justice that Battle of the Bulge, which oc- and similar cases for the very both the Jewish and Muslim curred here in Luxembourg. first time," said Mandell, who and Christian holidays are We also discussed the values has already met with former celebrated there." and culture ofAmerica, both U.S. Senator Mel Martinez Speaking of the ambas- the positives and some of and retired Supreme Court sador's residence, the house the things they do not see as Justice SandraDay O'Connor, was originallybuilt in 1922 by positive--such things as our as well as Congressman Mi- a family that was in the steel junkfoodandourmilitaryin- chael Turner (R-Ohio) and industry. It was then bought terventions. They are bright, his staff, who were there for by the Germans, and Gustaf multilingual kids who ask re- the NATO Parliamentary As- Simonlivedthereforfiveyears ally tough questions. Finally, sembly meeting, and Senator while he was the Nazi gover- we discussed the opportunity Bill Nelson during 2013. nor of Luxembourg. German of studying in the U.S. and "I am not sure if he iscomposer Richard Strauss attending one of our great considered a U.S. leader, but also stayed in the residence institutions of higher educa- Bob Dylan is coming to Lux- during the war. tion to experience America embourg to perform and he is "After WWII the house was first-hand," said Mandell. invited to go with me to visit given to the United States as "I feel it is so important the the Kannerland kids!" part of the war reparations localyouth learn the histori- How this ambassador to pay back America for our calreas0ns for the friendship reIaxes contributions. Every single between our two countries. Mandell is an avid painter U.S. ambassador since the The German ambassador to and he makes time in his first, Perle Mesta--the 'host- Luxembourg will join me hectic schedule to paint, ess with the mostest'--have this time as I embark on often with the children from lived inthisbeautiful, historic another tour of every high the Kannerland orphan- residence," Mandell said. school in Luxembourg. We age. "Those moments areThanksgiving is Mandell's will meet with students and really special to me," he said. favorite holiday, and he and teachers and discuss WWII, Mandelrsrelationshipwith Julie cherish the opportu- the reconciliation process the Kannerland kids is one of nity to celebrate with official and what a strong partner his greatest joys in Luxem- contacts and separately with Germany is with the U.S. bourg. In fact, the Mandells their staff. now." have opened their house to "We like to create a casual Supporting our soldiers children fromthe Kannerland American atmosphere in the Whenonethinksoftherole orphanage to let them paint house and our guests can of an ambassador, the usual in the sunroom, feel at ease to discuss, ask mental picture is of pomp "I arrived in mid-Novem- questions and enjoy them- and circumstance and formal ber, exactly two years ago. selves. The locals have been meetings with dignitaries. The children here celebrate wonderfully welcoming and Those are part of an ambas- St. Nicolas Day on Dec. 6, hospitable; Julie and I count sador'slife, howeverspending and the U.S. Marines and I many of them among our time with American soldiers were delivering gifts to this dearest friends. Part of my ranks high on his priorities, orphanage, which is literally work here is to continue the He once hostedabarbecue for up the road from my house, momentum of goodwill that a group of Wounded Warrior The experience affected me is felt by the Luxembourgers veterans riding bikes through in such a positive way that I toward the Americans since Luxembourg. reachedouttothemandasked the two world wars." "In addition to the barbe- what I could do to be part of With many of the older cue, I gotoLandstuhl Hospital their community. We decided generation now gone, Mandell probably once a month to to give the kids one-on-one sees the importance of using meet with wounded soldiers attention during each school his best diplomatic skills to who have just come back from holiday and invite them over engage with theyoung people 'down range'--Afghanistan," in small groups of five or six there to continue to forge Mandell said. to paint, play the piano, and strong ties between the U.S. One of the highlights of have lunch sowe could really and Luxembourg. his time in Luxembourg was get to know them." Luxembourgish Jews, Anti- when he went to Afghanistan He also includes "celeb- Semitism and terrorists for five days to meet and talk rity guests" to paint with the Recently, articles have with U.S. military members, children. The first guest was circulated about the increase Luxembourg troops, and vii- Mayor of Luxembourg Xavier in anti-Semitism in Belgium. lage elders throughout the Bettel, who just won the Since Belgium borders Lux- country, national elections and is in embourg, is Mandell aware "Most touching though the process of forming a new of anti-Semitism in Luxem- are the numerous memorial government in Luxembourg. bourg? events commemorating the "He may easily become the "Luxembourg is a very American participation in nation's prime minister," said accepting place, 40 percent WWII," said Mandell. "Lux- Mandell. This man who may of the population consists embourg really remembers become prime minister was of people mainly from other the sacrifices made byAmeri- soamazedwiththe children's European Union countries. cans, andthepeopleherehave paintings that he hosted an The local population real- more than 90 memorials and art exhibit of their wonderful izes that they need the non- plaques across the country. It works of art. Luxembourgers to keep the is my privilege to meet veter- In addition to painting, he economy thriving. For this ans from the war as well as and his wife, Julie, create a reasontheyembracepeopleof their families." haunted house each Hallow- all religious, racial, ethnic and The Ambassador and Mrs. Mandell with Muslim and other leaders at the lftar dinner as they break fast during Ramadan. cultural groups. Fortunately, Luxembourg does not seem to have any anti-Semitism, but we read disturbing reports from Belgium and Germany," he told the Heritage. What about the Jewish population in Luxembourg? Mandell explained that it is difficult to determine how many Jews live there because just after the end of the World War II, the government of Luxembourg outlawed any official poll which requires people to state their religion so that no group of people would face anything like the horrors the Jews suffered before and during the war. "Having said that, there is an active Conservative synagogue and we estimate that approximately 1,200 people of Jewish faith reside in Luxembourg, as well as more cultural and expat Jews living here from other parts of the world," he said. And for Jewish people who live there, Mandell said"life is wonderful in Luxembourg!" Every faith is free to practice or not practice their religion in peace. The government of Luxembourg recognizes Judaism and financially sup- ports the synagogue and the grand rabbi, as well as sup- porting the Catholic church, which is 95 percent of the population, and the Chrisitan church. "There arC many interest- ing museum~and memorials, including tie Deportation Museum, th~ Wercolier Gal- lery in the Ablaye de Neumun- ster, exhibitsin the national military museum and plaques and memorias erected all over the country where specific events occur~d, for the many Luxembourtish Jews who were persecCed and killed before and luring WWII, which is a soer reminder of our cultural ast in this part of the world.' Jewish organizations are thriving in Luxembourg, including Re Consistoire Israelite de Luxembourg; Communaut~ juive d'Esch- sur-Alzette; Chabad Lubavitch du Luxembolrg; Or Chadash Liberal Jewisi Community of Luxembourg "In the rime shul, in downtown Ltxembourg City, operated by :he Consistoire Israelite, both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic services occur simultaneously, one upstairs and one in the basement," Mandell said "During the High Holidays, I attended both and was surprised that the Sephardic congregation was twice the size of the Ashkenazi one, at least for the Yom Kip- pur service." So far, according to Man- Ambassador Mandell ghanistan. religious and community (1) airborne with soldiers in Af- dell, Luxembourg has not had a problem with terrorist activity. "Luxembourg works very hard to make the country an unattractive place for terror- ists and other such groups. Of course with the open borders in Europe they must remain vigilant. This is on the mind of local community and govern- ment leaders," he said. Mandelrs future plans as ambassador "I have no idea what is in store for tomorrow, but it will be a new adventure, I know that for sure," said the easy-going Mandell. He does know that he will continue to serve his various clients: namely American citizens living in Luxembourg, helping U.S. Ambassador to wife, Julie. American companies do busi- ness here; and work with the government of Luxembourg on shared challenges and partnerships such as NATO and United Nations Security Council issues. "Security Council issues are particularly important since Luxembourg has a seat at the table for two years," he said. "My youth outreach pro- gram will definitely continue. As I mentioned, I will host a majority of Justices of U.S. Supreme Court for a confer- ence with the European Court of Justice.And, of course, I will continue to visit the Wounded Warriors at Landstuhl Hospi- tal and with my Kannerland kids, who have really become part of my family." Luxembourg Robert Mandell and his