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Remembering the Heroism of Varian Fry

Sept. 12 2017

Visiting Berlin as a journalist in 1935, Varian Fry was among the first to report for the American press on the Nazi government’s brutal anti-Semitic violence. Upon returning to the U.S., he founded the Emergency Rescue Committee, devoted primarily to getting Jewish artists and intellectuals out of Europe. He later went to Vichy France to help rescue refugees who had fled there from Germany. Ginia Bellafante writes:

In August 1940, Fry, a Protestant and thirty-two-year-old, went to Marseilles to begin a covert rescue operation that during his thirteen-month stay would result in the escape of more than 2,000 people, among them many artists and intellectuals, including Marc Chagall, Hannah Arendt, Max Ernst, . . . Marcel Duchamp, . . . and Alma Mahler [Gustav’s widow]. . . .

In June 1940, he had sent a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt explaining that there was an urgent need for someone—“an adventurous daredevil”—to go to France and risk his life in an attempt to “save the intended victims of Hitler’s chopping block.” But Fry did not see himself in the role, in part because his own command of French and German was merely “halting,” he wrote, and because he had “no experience whatever in detective work.”

He hoped that either Mrs. Roosevelt or her husband could suggest someone, but when no such individual surfaced, he volunteered as if there were no other reasonable choice—strapping $3,000 to his leg as he left New York, holding meetings in bathrooms with the water running to evade the detection of German spies who had planted listening devices. Moral calling inserted him in a world of black-market money, forged passports, and visas and clandestine mountain routes. He stayed in France, having originally imagined it would only be for a few weeks, long past the point at which he understood it was dangerous.

Read more at New York Times

More about: History & Ideas, Holocaust, Refugees, United States, World War II

 

The Movement to Return Jewish Worship to the Temple Mount Has Gone Mainstream

Sept. 25 2017

During the eruption of violence against Israelis in Jerusalem this summer, and the subsequent struggle over metal detectors, the Islamic authorities briefly boycotted the Temple Mount. As a result, Jewish visitors, normally prohibited from praying there, immediately began to do so. Meir Soloveichik puts the episode in context and describes its meaning:

The Temple Mount is fast becoming a pilgrimage site for religious Jews. In the past, most abstained from visiting out of concern that they might enter a sacred area in a state of ritual impurity, but many now believe that, with a knowledge of the layout, history, and religious laws pertaining to the location, it is permissible to visit certain parts of the Temple Mount plaza. They thus visit the site under religious guidance—immersing first in a ritual bath, or mikveh—and tread only in specific areas. What was once a trickle of pilgrims has become a stream, and this year they numbered in the many thousands. . . .

[Indeed, a] sea change has taken place in the past fifteen years: . . . the segment of Jews visiting the Temple Mount is becoming more and more mainstream, supported by rabbis noted for their liberalism in social or religious affairs. . . .

Visiting Jews were, for a brief and brilliant moment [this summer], able to utter several words of prayer without interference. The Israeli media published photos of a diverse group of Jews standing on the Temple Mount reciting the kaddish, so close to where their ancestors, on Yom Kippur, had once stood listening to the high priest pronounce the Name of God. Soon after this kaddish, the [status quo ante] returned; Jews again were no longer free to pray at the site toward which all Jewish prayer has been directed for thousands of years. But images of that one unimpeded kaddish remain; to study them is to look back on the miraculous and heartbreaking past half-century in Jerusalem, to celebrate what has been achieved, and to mourn what might have been.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Judaism, Palestinian terror, Religion & Holidays, Temple Mount