Child Holocaust survivor finds haven as Muslim in Israel (& other items)

May 01, 2012

(This dispatch was written and sent on April 29, 2012 but only posted on line on May 1 due to technical reasons.)


Fans of Polish soccer club Legia Warszawa unfurl a massive banner during a European match against Hapoel Tel Aviv bearing the slogan “Jihad Legia” written in Arabic style writing


This dispatch contains recent news items connected to anti-Semitism. For space reasons, I omitted other recent anti-Semitic attacks elsewhere. But at the same time I would like to emphasize that while anti-Semitism is once again a rising phenomenon in many countries, elsewhere Jews are living free from harassment. There will be a dispatch dealing with political items from the Middle East later today.


* Leila Jabarin finally tells her eight Muslim children and 31 grandchildren in northern Israel that she was a Jewish Holocaust survivor, born in Auschwitz as Helen Leah Brashatsky

* Madeleine Albright, who had previously not acknowledged that she was of Jewish origin, set to outline in a new book that at least 25 members of her family were herded into the Terezin (Theresienstadt) concentration camp north of Prague. None survived, and three of her grandparents were killed in Auschwitz

* The head of the Catholic Church in Australia tells TV audience that Germans suffered more than Jews during the Holocaust

* New Jersey appeals court says non-Jewish man who endured a year-long campaign of anti-Semitic slurs from his workplace supervisors can sue his firm as a victim of anti-Semitism even though he is not Jewish

* Vienna finally renames boulevard named after notorious anti-Semitic mayor who inspired Hitler as a young man

* Ukrainian, French anti-Semitic attack victims both wake up from comas after doctors feared they would never recover


* There is another dispatch today here:

London 2012 Olympics official website: Jerusalem Capital of ‘Palestine,’ not Israel (& other items)



1. Child Holocaust survivor finds haven as Muslim in Israel
2. Court rules that non-Jewish man can sue as victim of anti-Semitic abuse
3. Leading Belgian doctor sacked for making pro-Nazi slurs to Jewish colleague
4. Kiev attack victim wakes up in a Tel Aviv hospital
5. Head of Australian Catholic Church apologizes for saying Germans suffered more than Jews during the Holocaust
6. Vandals paint swastikas on Jewish-owned summer cottages in Quebec
7. Anti-Semitic football merchandise on sale in Poland ahead of European soccer championships
8. Vienna finally renames boulevard named after notorious anti-Semitic mayor
9. American representative chides Swedish mayor for anti-Semitism
10. Former Palestinian intelligence officer sentenced to death for selling home to Jews


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

Majeda El Batsh, the Israeli-Arab affairs correspondent of the French news agency Agence France Presse (AFP) reports from the town of Umm El-Fahm in northern Israel that for more than five decades, Leila Jabarin hid her secret from her Muslim children and grandchildren – that she was a Jewish Holocaust survivor born in the Auschwitz death camp.

Last week just before Israel’s annual Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) Jabarin, who was born Helen Leah Brashatsky, finally sat down and told them the truth.

A child survivor of Auschwitz, she arrived in a ship carrying other Jewish survivors from Yugoslavia, which was forced to anchor off the coast of Haifa for a week due to a heavy British bombardment of the northern port city, which killed other Holocaust survivors.

Her mother, who was from Hungary, and her father, who was of Russian descent, were living in Yugoslavia when they were sent to the Auschwitz with their two young sons in 1941.

Born in Auschwitz she was saved by a non-Jewish doctor there who hid her for three years under the floor of his house inside the camp. Her mother worked as a maid at the doctor’s home.

Aged 17 in Israel, Helen Brashatsky eloped with a young Israeli Arab man called Ahmed Jabarin, and they moved to live in Umm al-Fahm.

Jabarin, who dresses in a hijab and long robes, but has pale skin and blue eyes typical of Ashkenazi Jews, then converted to Islam, but didn’t tell her family the full extent of her history until last week.

In an interview for Yom HaShoah she told AFP: “I hid my pain for 52 years and the truth about my past from my eight children and my 31 grandchildren. I hid the fact that I was born in Auschwitz and what that painful past means. I was just waiting for the right moment to tell them.”

“Whenever it is Holocaust Memorial Day, I cry alone. There are no words to describe the pain that I feel.”

For her family, the revelation was a huge shock – but it answered a lot of questions, admits her 33-year-old son Nader Jabarin.

“Mom used to cry on Holocaust Memorial Day watching all the ceremonies on Israeli television. We never understood why. We all used to get out of the way and leave her alone in the house,” he told AFP.

But by telling her long-kept secret, it had brought release to both her and her family, he said. “We understand her a bit more now.”

In countries like Poland and elsewhere, it has been a relatively common phenomena for Holocaust survivors to hide their origins, so traumatized were they by their persecution.



Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has written a new memoir in which she finally comes clean about her Jewish roots. The book, “Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948” is set to be released this week, and says that between 1942 and 1944, at least 25 members of her family were herded into the Terezin (Theresienstadt) concentration camp north of Prague by the invading Nazis. None survived.

Albright, originally named Marie Jana Korbelova, left Czechoslovakia for England in 1939, when she was 2 years old, and grew up Catholic, and later Episcopalian.



A New Jersey appeals court has ruled that a man who says he endured anti-Semitic slurs can sue his former supervisors even though he is not Jewish, reports The Washington Post.

Myron Cowher, a former truck driver for Carson & Roberts Site Construction & Engineering Inc., in Lafayette, N.J., sued the company and three supervisors after he allegedly was the target of anti-Semitic remarks for more than a year.

Cowher, of Dingmans Ferry, Pa., produced DVDs that showed supervisors Jay Unangst and Nick Gingerelli making such comments in his presence as “Only a Jew would argue over his hours” and “If you were a German, we would burn you in the oven,” according to a state appeals court ruling handed down April 18.

Cowher has a German-Irish and Lutheran background and is not Jewish, but said he suffered as a result of a campaign of anti-Semitic abuse.

The appeals court did not consider the merits of Cowher’s case, but only whether he has standing to pursue it. The suit, alleging discrimination that created a hostile work environment, had been dismissed by a Superior Court judge who ruled that because Cowher was not a Jew, he could not sue. But this was overturned by the appeals court which ruled he could now go ahead with the case.

Employment attorneys say the ruling is significant since it expands the scope of who can bring discrimination suits under the state law by allowing a person who is not actually a member of a protected class to pursue a claim.



A hospital in Brussels has fired one of its top surgeons for hurling Nazi slogans and racial slurs at a Jewish colleague.

The surgeon called out “sieg heil,” and told his younger Dutch-born, Jewish subordinate to “head back into the gas chambers,” according to a complaint which the Jewish doctor (who wishes to remain anonymous) filed with the Brussels-based Center for Equal Opportunities, an anti-discrimination watchdog organization.

“It’s a pity because he was a good surgeon but his statements do not conform to the hospital’s mission,” Edgard Eeckman, the spokesman for the Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussels hospital, told the newspaper De Morgen.

The complainant told Joods Actueel, Belgium’s main Jewish newspaper, which first reported on the incident, that he thought the hospital had done the right thing. “It sends a message to the rest of society that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated.”

The complainant, who had recently returned from a vacation in Israel, further said the surgeon told him to “go back to the Dead Sea and be dead.”

The sacked surgeon offered an apology to the hospital, the colleague he abused and “to the entire Jewish community, whose feelings I have hurt.”

Hospital authorities identified the surgeon as Dr. Frank H., and added that he was “difficult,” and had been subject of a previous complaint against him for alleged violent and racist behavior in July.



The young Ukrainian Jewish man who was viciously attacked and left for dead after leaving a Passover Seder at a synagogue in Kiev earlier in April has now regained consciousness at a hospital in Israel.

Aharon Alexander Goncharov, 25, regained consciousness last week, despite fears by doctors that he would never wake up and would be left in a coma or with severe brain damaged.

“The fact he is awake and not brain damaged is a miracle,” Itzhak Shapira, the director of the Sourasky Rehabilitation Center at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, told the newspaper Israel Hayom.

Goncharov, who wears a skullcap, said his attackers yelled “Yid” as they hit him with glass bottles on his head, Israel Hayom reported. Two days after the attack, he was flown, still unconscious, to Israel on the private plane of a Ukrainian-Jewish businessman, and admitted to Ichilov, one of the world’s leading hospitals. The Israeli government has covered the cost of his treatment and the rehabilitation which he will now undergo.

Goncharov told Israel Hayom that he has no plans to remove his skullcap when he returns to Ukraine after completing his course of rehabilitation.


Brian Aaron Bajoui, the French Jewish teenager left in a coma following the attack last month on a Jewish school in Toulouse that killed three other children and one teacher, has now come out of his coma and his condition is said to be improving. Brian was shot in the stomach and lungs after he protected other children by getting in the way of the gunman, Mohamed Merah. (For more on that incident, please see here.)



The head of Australia’s Catholic Church, Cardinal George Pell, has apologized for what Jewish leaders described as “deeply problematic” comments he made about Jews on a TV show.

During a TV debate on April 10 with the British atheist Richard Dawkins on “Q&A,” a leading current affairs talk show on the Australian Broadcasting Corp., Cardinal Pell said that Germans suffered more than Jews during the Holocaust.

Asked why God allowed the Holocaust to occur, Pell said, “No people in history have been punished the way the Germans were. It is a terrible mystery.”

Earlier in the debate Pell said that “the little Jewish people” were shepherds who were morally and intellectually inferior to the ancient Egyptians.

In his clarifying statement, Pell said, “My commitment to friendship with the Jewish community and my esteem for the Jewish faith is a matter of public record, and the last thing I would want to do is give offense to either.”

He added: “The Holocaust was a crime unique in history for the death and suffering it caused and its diabolical attempt to wipe out an entire people.”

Peter Wertheim, executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said “We welcome as a first step Cardinal Pell’s clarifying statement that he did not intend any offense, and his expression of continuing friendship with the Jewish community and esteem for the Jewish faith.”

The Catholic Church has a centuries’ long history of anti-Semitism, and Catholic priests in Slovakia, Croatia and elsewhere were at the forefront of rounding up Jews and sending them to death camps during the Holocaust.



The Montreal Gazette reported (on April 16) that vandals broke into and defaced about 15 Jewish-owned summer homes in Val David, Canada. In one home, at least one of the vandals defecated on the floor, said Pinkas Feferkorn, director of the Val Morin synagogue.

In other homes, anti-Jewish hate messages such as “F--k Juif” and large swastikas were spray-painted all over the walls outside and inside the homes. Furniture was damaged, and clothes and toys were thrown out of windows.

The Quebec police are investigating the break-ins in Val Morin, which lies 90 kilometers northwest of Montreal. No one was in the homes during the incidents.

Joel Weber, whose cottage was ransacked, said the vandals also apparently tried to start two fires – one in the middle of a street and another on a tarp covering a community swimming pool.

“We’re upset, we’re shocked,” Weber said. “We have no idea what could have sparked these incidents.”

The front door of one of the Jewish homes attacked in Quebec

There have been attacks on the Jewish community in the town before. In 2005, vandals broke into a Val Morin synagogue and desecrated 300 holy books.

In nearby Val David, several suspicious fires were started in 2007, including some in a neighborhood where about 50 orthodox Jewish families own cottages. A year later, a Hasidic Jewish tourist was punched in the face as he walked to a synagogue in nearby Ste. Agathe, reported The Montreal Gazette.



The (London) Daily Telegraph reports that large quantities of football (soccer) merchandise with anti-Semitic slogans and calls for attacks on visiting fans have been put on sale in Poland just weeks before hundreds of thousands of football fans descend on the country for the 2012 European championships.

At one outlet in the shadow of the stadium belonging to Widzew Lodz, one of Poland’s biggest clubs, fans can buy scarves and stickers with the motto “Jews forbidden,” notes The Daily Telegraph.

An employee at the shop was quoted by the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza as saying the shop stocked the materials “because they sell well and they’re in demand.”

Anti-racism campaigners also claim that “To My Kibice,” a popular fan magazine sold in high-street shops, often carries advertisements for racist and xenophobic material.

The availability and apparent popularity of the products have fuelled fears of outbreaks of racism and violence during Euro 2012, which starts in June and is co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine.

Last year, fans of the Polish team Legia Warszawa drew international condemnation when they unfurled a massive banner during a European match against Hapoel Tel Aviv bearing the slogan “Jihad Legia” written in Arabic style writing.



After decades of controversy, the city authorities in the Austrian capital Vienna have renamed a stretch of the Vienna ring road named after the city’s former mayor Karl Lueger (1844-1910), an anti-Semitic populist who was idolized by a young Adolf Hitler when he lived in Vienna.

The ‘Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Ring’, which passes in front of the University of Vienna’s main building, will in future be called ‘Universitätsring,’ a city official confirmed to the Austrian news agency APA. The decision was taken at the request of Vienna University.

“Lueger is widely regarded as the founder of modern anti-Semitism and was a fantastic inspiration for Hitler,” Social Democratic city official Andreas Mailath-Pokorny said.

A monument in honor of Lueger will remain on the boulevard, however.

Hitler was a resident of Vienna from 1907 to 1913, and Lueger, who regularly whipped up anti-Semitic fervor, was mayor during some of this period.

Amos Elon, the late Israeli writer and historian who was a subscriber to this email list, once said: “Asked to explain the fact that many of his friends were Jews, Lueger famously replied: ‘I decide who is a Jew.’”

The leader of the extreme-right Austrian Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, said the renaming of the street was “a scandal.”



In a meeting on April 24 in the town hall of the southern Swedish city of Malmo, Hannah Rosenthal, the United States special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, accused the controversial Malmo mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, of not doing nearly enough to prevent rampant anti-Semitism.

In March, Reepalu told a Swedish magazine that the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim Swedish Democratic Party had “infiltrated” the city’s Jewish community to turn it against Muslims. Reepalu later apologized to the Jewish community, acknowledging that this was completely untrue.

Reepalu also angered the Jewish community when he said it bore responsibility for attacks upon it because the community has not condemned Israel.

Only 760 registered Jews remain in Malmo, others having left the city in recent years following a series of assaults.

Malmo’s only remaining rabbi, Shneur Kesselman, said he has been the victim of more than 50 anti-Semitic incidents during his eight years in Malmo. Kathrin Dominique, a congregant at Malmo’s 109-year-old synagogue told Rosenthal that her teenage sons have been harassed repeatedly, mainly by Muslim youths. Malmo now has a Muslim population of around 50,000, one sixth of the city’s population.

(For videos of the 2009 anti-Semitic riots in Malmo, please see this dispatch.)



The (London) Daily Mail reports that a former Palestinian intelligence officer has been sentenced to death after it was revealed he had sold his home to Jews. (You probably didn’t hear much, or anything about this, in the BBC and the rest of the British and international media.)

Muhammad Abu Shahala, who worked for the Palestinian Authority reportedly confessed under torture to selling his home in Hebron on the West Bank to a Jewish man.

Jewish officials are now calling for the international community to intervene to save Abu Shahala’s life. In an open letter addressed to Ban Ki-moon, Hillary Clinton, and others, they wrote: “It is appalling to think that property sales to Jews should be defined as a ‘capital crime’ punishable by death. The very fact that such a ‘law’ exists within the framework of the Palestinian Authority legal system points to a barbaric and perverse type of justice, reminiscent of practices implemented during the dark ages.”

“It is incumbent upon the entire international community, which views Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority as a viable Middle East peace partner, to publicly reject such acts of legal murder, when the ‘crime’ is nothing more than property sales.”

[All notes above by Tom Gross]

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.