When Yad Vashem was established in 1953 the Remembrance Authority’s mission included a program of honoring the Chasidey Umos Haolam -- the Righteous Among the Nations. As worldwide Jewry memorialized the victims and struggled with the enormity of the loss and the impact of the total abandonment and betrayal Europe’s Jews the Yad Vashem program was established in order to remember those individuals who put their lives and the lives of their families at risk to as they rescued Jews.
In 1965 Yad Vashem honored a Polish woman, Irena Sendler, who worked with a unique Polish underground group which specialized in helping Jews escape the Nazi dragnet. After the Yad VaShem ceremony however, Sendler returned to Poland and her story was almost lost to history although, according to records, she saved more than twice as many Jewish lives as the renowned Oskar Schindler of "Schindler's List" fame.
In 1999, by chance, a group of Kansas City studentscame across Sendler's story. They were fascinated by the sheer volume of lives that she had managed to save and, in the following years, they embarked on a research project that turned into the "Life in a Jar" project -- an acclaimed book, website and performance.
Irena Sendler was a young social worker when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. She was one of the first Zagota -- an underground group which specialized in assisting Jews -- members. Through the first two years of the war she helped forge documents and locate hiding places for hundreds of Jews who were fleeing the Nazis.
In 1941 Sendler secured false documents which identified her as a nurse and enabled her to enter the Warsaw Ghetto in order to bring food and medicines into the ghetto. Once she saw the situation in the ghetto Sendler quickly realized that the Nazis intended to murder the Jews who had been crowded into the ghetto walls. She felt that the best chance to save lives lay in removing as many children from the ghetto as possible, and she began to do so, picking up orphans from the street and spiriting them out by sedating them and carrying them in toolboxes, luggage, bags and even under carts filled with garbage.
Sendler also approached families in the ghetto and begged them to allow them to remove their children. This was traumatic, not only for the parents, who had to decide where their children's best chance of survival lay, but for Sendler herself. "I talked the mothers out of their children" Sendler told interviewers as she described the heartwrenching scenes that she endured, day after day, as she took children from their parents. "Those scenes over whether to give a child away were heart-rending. Sometimes, they wouldn't give me the child. Their first question was, 'What guarantee is there that the child will live?' I said, 'None. I don't even know if I will get out of the ghetto alive today."
As perilous as smuggling the children out of the ghetto was -- under tram seats, via a secret passage through the Old Courthouse that stood on the edge of the ghetto and even through the sewer pipes that ran under the city -- the second part of the rescue operation was just as difficult. Sendler and other Zagota members had to forge documents for the children and find hiding places for them. Many children were placed in orphanages or in convents while others hid with sympathetic Polish families.
Sendler carefully recorded the names of the children on tissue paper which she secured in glass jars and buried in her neighbor's garden. She wanted to be sure that, after the war, if possible, the children could be reunited with their families or, if that proved to be impossible, at least with their Jewish community.
In October 1943 Sendler was arrested by the Gestapo and tortured. Zagota members secured her release by bribing a guard at the Pawiak prison and Sendler lived out the rest of the war in hiding.
In addition to her 1965 Yad Vashem commemoration Sendler was honored by the Life in a Jar project that the Kansas City students created. The project run by the Lowell Milken Centre pays tribute to Irena Sendler as it educates people throughout the world about what it means to stand up for justice.
Miami, FL – May 30, 2013 – Brazilian authors Rabbi Daniel Kahane and
Ann Helen Wainer have recently launched a new book, which promises to
change the way scholars and laymen understand the Jewish calendar as
well as the structure of central Jewish texts.
The book shows how the 52-day period spanning from Passover to Shavuot
(Pentecost) is in fact a microcosm of the 52 weeks of the year.
Additionally, it demonstrates how 52 rabbis and 52 animals listed in
the sacred works Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers”) and Perek
Shirah (“Chapter of Song”) parallel the year’s weeks as well. Finally,
the book explores the kabbalistic meaning behind the numbers and
divine attributes (sefirot) related to each day from Passover to
Shavuot known as the Counting of the Omer.
“The book’s use as a weapon against sadness should also not be
underestimated,” exclaims Ann Helen Wainer, “its uplifting ideas and
its connectedness to the song and harmony of nature, as well as the
wisdom and foresight of our ancestors, is a true gift.”
The book was originally launched in Portuguese, after the authors
received a grant from the Safra Philanthropic Institute in Brazil. An
expanded eBook English version is available on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes
& Noble, as well as ModernJewishHome.com. More information and
ongoing classes are also available on Blogger, YouTube, Facebook, and
The “Kabbalah of Time” eBook consistently listed as Amazon’s #1 “Hot
New Release in Kabbalah,” and now, after a month of its release, was
back among the Top #10 Best Sellers in its category.
Mrs. Wainer is a prolific author, having published several works
regarding Judaism and Jewish History, as well as Brazilian Law and
History. Her titles include: Jewish and Brazilian Connections to New
York, India, and Ecology; Family Portrait; A Jewish Perspective on
Ecology; Civil Liability of the Developer; and Brazilian Environmental
Legislation. Ann Helen earned a master’s degree in corporate law in
Brazil, and an MA in religious studies at Florida International
Rabbi Daniel Kahane is a graduate from Georgetown Law School and
Princeton University, where he received the religion departmental
award in Jewish studies, as well as a Certificate in the subject. He
also attended Yeshiva University and Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Besides from working full-time as an attorney, Rabbi Kahane teaches
weekly classes at Chabad of Aventura, FL.
Charity and kindness are of the most important aspects of Jewish tradition. The Talmud teaches that compassion and acts of goodness are the trademarks of the Jewish soul. Charity brings blessing, hastens the final redemption and is compared to all of the Mitzvot put together.
There are various forms of giving. We can assist someone in need with something tangible like money or gifts. Another form of kindness, of equal importance, is time. Spending time guiding, advising, motivating, or just being a listening ear are all legitimate ways to fulfill this important Mitzvah.
But there is another form of giving that is possibly even more powerful and important. It takes very little effort and yet does not receive the attention and importance it deserves. This is simply saying something small to someone in a way that makes them feel valued and respected. This can be achieved by saying a kind or uplifting word to someone feeling down or as simple as a warm "hello" greeting to a friend or even a stranger.
The Talmud teaches that he who gives a coin to a poor person receives three types of blessings. However, if he says a soothing word and makes him feel better, he is given eleven blessings. It also teaches that greeting someone properly brings the blessing of longevity.
Giving someone time or money fulfills an external need. They provide important support but don't address the inner essence of the individual. A kind word or a warm greeting respects their human dignity and inner soul. Every human being is created in the image of G-d and possesses a soul of Divine origin. Respecting and uplifting that person is recognition of his/her Divine imprint.
We might not all have a lot of time or financial resources to help others in big ways. But we can all take a few seconds to say something positive to someone else or to greet the neighbor, garbage collector or the mailman with a smile. These small acts of real kindness deepen relationships, and inject a positive energy and a flow of blessing into all of existence.
"Speak to the Children of Israel and let them take for Me a portion" [Terumah 25:2] Why does the verse state "...
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"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." "How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."