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December 18, 2009

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" HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 18, 2009 PAGE 21A By Sharon Udasin New York Jewish Week NEW YORK--Huddled inside a bus station in Bay- side, Queens, last December, Paul Cavalieri shuddered in the cold air and watched the snow come down around him, hoping his bus would soon roll into sight. But then his brain reeled back 15 minutes to his interview with Queens Holocaust survivor Ethel Katz, who told him of her two- year escape from the Nazis. It was a perilous trek that at one point took her through knee-deep snow in nothing but a nightgown. "I could sit here at this bus stop and freeze for a little while," Cavalieri remembers deciding. "It put my problems into perspective." Along with other students, Cavalieri tells a similarversion of the story on an LCD touch- screen panel in an exhibition at the new Holocaust Resource Center at Queensborough Community College. The building, a starkly modern glass structure, stands out on a campus of sprawling park- ing lots, nondescript build- ings and mobile classrooms. Twenty-four years ago, the original center--essentially a basement library--grew out of a course taught by Wil- liam Shulman, who said that his students needed a place to broaden their Holocaust research. There it languished until Queensborough Com- munity College President Edu- ardo Martf took over in 2000 and decided that a cramped cel- lar was no place for Holocaust resources.With the help of the center's director, Arthur Flug, he obtained funding from the state, a $1 million gift from Harriet Kupferbe~g and $2.8 million in private donations to open a new, 9,000-square-feet building last month. "He saw the potential of connecting the Holocaust to young college students," said Owen Bernstein, 87, a board member of the center who donated personal funds as well, said of Martf. At a first glance, Queens- borough Community College may seem like an unlikely spot for a Holocaust center, as very few of its 15,000 students are Jewish. But from this humble corner of Queens the center has become a launching pad of sorts for the spread of in- formation about the Shoah. Over 50,000 booklets and other materials created at the center are used in public schools in the New York area, and in dozens of schools and institutions throughout the world. And those materials help tie the abstract, far-off notion of worldwide genocide to the very concrete notion of local hate crimes. "We teach the Holocaust as an event that took place, and we use it to equip our students to address a hate-crimes pro- gram," Plug, who is 70, said. "The students that come out of this know how to respond to crimes of hate." For the Jewish community of Bayside, especially its size- able elderly contingent, the center is their baby, which they helped birth and con- tinue to nurture through financial support and visits. Without the center, they, like many of their aging fellow Jews in various pockets in Queens, might well be forgot- ten. Now, they have a legacy in bricks and mortar, so to speak. "I'm proud of my husband and what he and the board and Dr. Plug did to make this dream come true for Queens," said Bebe Bernstein, 82, who said that both she and her husband lost many relatives to the Shoah, though they were both in America at the time. "Queens has one of the most beautiful structures in memory of the Holocaust." Harvey Sacks, 87, who visited the center with the Bernsteins and his wife added, "Nothing will give informa- tion about the Holocaust a greater boost than this center, which will provide the author- ity to start spreading that information." Plug has already been run- ning programs for the past four years, hosting public lectures, producing texts on various Holocaust themes and overseeing internships that allow students like Paul Caval- ieri to interactwith Holocaust survivors. While the focus of the center remains the Holo- caust, Flug said he gears his lectures and events toward helping community members recognize hate crimes. Unlike Holocaustvictims, hate crime victims have laws to protect them if they find themselves under attack, even if they aren't citizens or don't speak perfect English, he said. "A large number of [stu- dents] realize what a hate crime is," Fiug said. "A lot of them say, 'Well, isn't that just life?'" Local scholars say that making the connection be- tween the Holocaust and hate crimes is appropriate, as long as the directors take care not to marginalize or over- universalize the Holocaust itself in the process. "That's a trend in Holocaust centers around the country and around the world," said Shulman, the retired former director of the center, who began teaching his Holocaust class in 1976. "There's a tip- ping point where you become more a tolerance and a geno- cide center than a Holocaust center, and the Holocaust loses its importance. I don't think that will happen here." Owen Bernstein agreed, adding that it was important to him to memorialize the Holocaust as "an event that was unique in its horror." Given the design of the build- ing, whose facade conjures up Kristallnacht in its use of jagged glass, that point is clear to visitors as they enter the campus and the center comes into view. "We're keeping the central focus of course on the Jewish Holocaust of World War II," said Jeff Gottlieb, president of the Queens Jewish Historical Society and board member of the center. "But we're also bringing in the fact that hate is worldwide--you have killings all over the place." Inside the glass exterior of the center, the 2,000-square-foot permanent exhibition fea- tures a Torah recovered from Poland, as well as five four- sided pillars that represent different time periods--the years 1919, 1933, 1938, 1943 and 1944. The 1919 block chronicles the story of Jews who fled Europe because of anti-Semitism, while the 1944 "Liberation" block features marker sketches by Nathan Hilu, a soldier who guarded Nazi war criminals during the Nuremberg Tri- als. Across the back wall, an LCD timeline documents the events from 1934 to '45, from German President Paul von Hindenburg's death until the onset of the trials. Situated near a window is the touch-screen where visi- tors can listen to the accounts of the interns, all of whom share their life-changing reac- tions to their interviews with local Holocaust survivors. ,'It just really made my problems feel very small," said Cavalieri."And still tothis day, whenever I want to complain about something or think I have it rough, I always re- member [Ethel Katz] and the struggles she went through." Cavalieri, 35, wants to be a history teacher and says he learned much more about the Holocaust during an internship at the center and his interview with Katz than he did through any "crash course" in high school. "Who's going to tell their stories for them? Who's going to speak about them?"Cava- lieri told The Jewish Week. "Right now I'm just getting goose bumps thinking about things that she told me." Another student, Vincent Wheeler, recalled survivor Eddie Weinstein's story on the screen and said, "I value my life because of it." Listening to the students' stories on the touch-screen, Bebe Bernstein was moved. "That's going to perpetuate the whole story" of the Holo- caust, she said. "But the most important part is to reach out to the young students, who are not necessarily Jewish, so that they too can spread the story." For Martf, Queensbor- ough Community College's president, "What happened in Germany during the Sec- ond World War is something that's the ultimate expression of prejudice." In an interview with The Jewish Week he stressed that the new center is neither a museum nor a memorial. "This is a labora- tory, where we use the lessons of the Holocaust to teach our students about prejudice, and what happens when you see something taking place and don't speak out." To bring the new center into being, Martf, a Cuban- American, said he enlisted the help of state Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck), state Sen. Frank Padavan (D- Northern Queens) and City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis) to raise $6 million from city and state funds, plus additional aid through Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. Martf says he is currently halfway toward raising an additional $5 mil- lion in restricted endowment funds, which would ensure thatthe college always has the money to operate the center. The exhibits may be ideal for those who are tired of revis- iting the standard images of the Holocaust, both Flue and Owen Bernstein pointed out. Instead, the displayed artwork of Holocaust survivor Samuel Bak includes images like an emotionless teddy bear with ripped-off arms and a ghetto in the form of a sinking ship. Also housed in the center is a 5,000-book circulating library, where Flue says books are available for checkout to everyone. "We wanted a lesson to be learned and I think we're doing that," Bernstein said. "The Holocaust is being re- membered." Even outside the walls of the building, Flue and his assistant director Ayala Tamir continue to spread the messages of the Holocaust center. In conjunction with the Department of Educa- tion, Flue has spearheaded a public schools program to address hate crimes. Last May, he brought together 250 administrators from Queens schools to hear Holocaust survivors speak about their experiences and learn how hate crimes can be prevented. Flue intends to extend this initiative next to Brooklyn and Manhattan schools; he and the survivors have also lectured at Co- lumbia University Teachers College. After a gay student told him about a hate crime he had faced, Flug organized a com- munity meeting in Flushing, co-sponsored by Hillcrest Jew- ish Center, to address issues facing gay youth; it attracted 150 people, he said. "The reaction was an eye- opener to many of the people there," he continued. "The people who got up to speak were usually the parents of gay students who talked about the pain they felt for what their children were feeling." Flue said he has also worked with Councilman and Comp- troller-Elect John Liu (D- Flushing) to teach students, teachers and community members how to react when preventative measures fail and hate crimes such as this one do unfortunately occur. "Our purpose here is to take all the suffering and pain that came out of the Holocaust and give it some meaning;' Flug said. "The Holocaust emerges not just as a lesson of history but as a lesson of survival skills," The Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Re- source Center and Archives is located on 22-05 56th Ave., at Queensborough Community College in Bayside. For more information, call 718-281- 5770 or visit www.qcc.cuny. edu/KHRCMindex.html. Reprinted with permission from the New York Jewish Week, By Ari Miller TEL AVIV (JTA)--David Cohen doesn't think Gold- star beer is bad--especially for a macro-brewed, indus- trial label that is Israel's most popular. But Cohen's beer of choice comes from The Dancing Camel, the brewing company he started in 2006 at an old grain storage facility in an industrial area of Tel Aviv. His beers have a distinc- tively Israeli flavor about them. There's the Carobbean Stout, brewed with the ubiq- uitous Mediterranean carob; the Six-Thirteen Pomegran- ate Ale, released for the High Holidays (613 is the number of mitzvahs cited in the Torah); the Golem, a high-alcohol content beer; the Gordon Beach Blond, named for one of Tel Aviv's beaches and spiced with rosemary and local mint; and the 'Trog Wit, brewed after Sukkot and using etrogs. "It's a fun fruit to work with," Cohen said of the brew, which contains awalnut-sized piece of etrog in every bottle. A former accountant and New Jersey native, Cohen is one of a growing number of micro-brewers in Israel. Aside from the Dancing Camel, which produces about 7,500 liters of beer per month, there's Haifa's LiBira brewery, the Golan Brewery in the Golan Heights, Canaan Beer from Ma'ale Adumim, in the West Bank, and Malka Beer in the western Galilee--not to mention home breweries throughout the country. Israeli beer experts say the Jewish state is going through something of a beer awaken- ing. While the average Israeli consumes only 13 liters of beer per year--compared to an estimated 85 liters an- nually for Americans--beer consumption is growing. Shachar Hertz, owner of Beer Master, which organizes beer-related events in Israel for beer aficionados, brewers and importers, projects a 50 percent growth in Israeli beer consumption over the coming decade. Hertz and others say beer is following the model of wine in Israel, where the development of unique, lo- cal wines fueled significant growth in wine consumption over the past decade. Now it's happening to beer, thanks in part to microbreweries. "The revolution started ex- actly as in the wine industry," said Guy Zuckerman, alcohol category manager at Tempo Beverages, which brews Is- rael's two national beer labels, Goldstar and Maccabee. Overall, Goldstar remains Israel's beer leader, with 27 percent of market share, ac- cording to Zuckerman. Carls- berg is the country's second favorite brand at 19 percent, followed by Maccabee at 13 percent and Heineken at 11 percent. The emergence of the neighborhood pub over the past few years in urban centers such as Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem has helped fuel beer consumption, Zucker- man said. "People moved to these cool, quiet neighborhood bars and drink beer," he said. The increased interest in hand-crafted brews has Beer Master Denny Neilson, an American expatriate who runs a shop for home brewers called The Winemaker, is at a beer festival in October with his daughter at Kibbutz Ma'abarot. benefited Israel's major beer players by promoting beer consumption generally. Tem- po even sponsors and mentors some home brewers, and the company runs a competition for them. A variety of microbrewers showed up at a beer festival held in early October at Kib- butz Ma'abarot's House of Wine. One was Denny Neilson, an American expatriate who runs a shop for home brewers in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion called The Winemaker. The house line of beers, available in 10 varieties, is called Isra-Ale. It carried top honors at the Ma'abarot festival. Neilson also teaches classes on brewing. Neilson said one of his main challenges in setting up shop was dealing with the bureaucratic processes he needed to acquire the proper permits. Most home brewers don't bother with permits, he said, making 19-liter batches in their kitchens. For the time being, micro- brews remain a boutique item in Israel. Since they are not pasteurized, they don't travel or store well and tend to be available only at upscale alcohol shops, bars and restaurants. But it may be only a matter of time before the microbrews go mainstream. "Eventually," Zuckerman said, "the know-how will catch up."