Survivors and Sharaka - January 26, 2024

This morning, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a provisional order that Israel must refrain from acts that could possibly lead to genocide but did not order an immediate cease-fire in Israel’s war in Gaza. The ICJ has demanded emergency measures requiring Israeli forces to reduce the number of Palestinian civilian deaths and improve the humanitarian situation in the occupied territory. The ICJ also ordered Israel to report in one month on its progress meeting those so-called provisional measures. You can learn more here.


Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said, "Israel does not need to be lectured on morality” while fighting Hamas in Gaza. “The International Court of Justice in The Hague went above and beyond, when it granted South Africa’s antisemitic request to discuss the claim of genocide in Gaza, and now refuses to reject the petition outright. Those who seek justice, will not find it on the leather chairs of the court chambers in The Hague — they will find it in the Hamas tunnels in Gaza, where 136 hostages are held, and where those who murdered our children are hiding.”




"Today and in the years to come, we remain stronger than ever in our commitment to never forget. We have a duty to preserve the memory of all the victims and their suffering. We owe it to those who perished in the Holocaust, we owe it to the survivors, and we owe it to future generations." -- European Union Vice-President Josep Borrell


Tomorrow marks the International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 79th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is a time to remember the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and the millions of other victims of Nazi persecution.


As we witness an alarming rise in antisemitism around the globe, it is more important than ever for us to recognize the critical lessons of Holocaust history as we commemorate the victims and honor the survivors.


Almost 80 years after the Holocaust, there are close to 245,000 Jewish survivors living in more than 90 countries based on a report from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference). Since 1952, the German government has worked with the Claims Conference and paid more than $90 billion to individuals for suffering and losses resulting from persecution by the Nazis. This includes funds that flow through our Jewish Family and Child Service to assist some 60 survivors in Portland.


Quick details from the study:


  • Nearly half of the survivors live in Israel, 18% are in Western Europe, 16% in the United States, and 12% in countries of the Former Soviet Union.


  • Median age is 86, with 20% of survivors older than 90.


  • Women make up 61% of survivors and 39% are men.


  • 96% of survivors are “child survivors” who were born after 1928.


  • Rose Girone, who lives in New York, is the survivor at age 112. As her daughter says, “Rose continues to thumb her nose at Hitler.”


Greg Schneider, the Claims Conference’s executive vice president said, “These are Jews who were born into a world that wanted to see them murdered. They endured the atrocities of the Holocaust in their youth and were forced to rebuild an entire life out of the ashes of the camps and ghettos that ended their families and communities." We must never forget!


Earlier this week, our community was fortunate to have representatives from Sharaka (“partnership” in Arabic) visit Portland. Sharaka’s core objective is to build bridges between young Israeli and Arab social activists, fostering an environment of peace, trust, and collaboration within societies based on the 2020 Abraham Accords between Israel, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and Sudan. Through these efforts they are working for a more promising future for all nations in the region.

The Sharaka delegation included (from left to right): a PhD political scientist from Bahrain, a Bahraini peace ambassador who serves as Sharaka’s Gulf Affairs Director, a marketing specialist from Morocco, a native Aramean and Maronite Christian Israeli Arab who volunteered to serve in the Israel Defense Force, and the Israeli director of Sharaka.


During their two-day visit they met with the Rep. Suzanne Bonamici and Rep. Andrea Salinas, the Executive Committee of the Jewish Federation, students (Jewish and non-Jewish) and faculty at Portland State University, and were interviewed by KGW.


On Monday evening they participated in a community forum (unfortunately, we were unable to record the program due to a Wi-Fi outage, but you can hear an interview with them on next Wednesday’s Jewish Review Podcast). Some important comments from the people from Sharaka:


  • The countries that have signed the Abraham Accords are forward-thinking countries. If Saudi Arabia signs a normalization agreement with Israel, it will end the wider Arab-Israeli conflict. This ties in to what Thomas Friedman wrote in yesterday’s New York Times, “Jointly, Hamas and Iran knew that if Israel cemented ties with a newly modernizing Saudi Arabia — on top of Israel’s relations with the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bahrain under the Abraham Accords — the balance of power between the secularizing, pluralizing, more market-driven network in the region and the more closed-off, anti-pluralizing, political-Islam-inspired network could tip decisively against both Iran and Hamas, isolating them both.”


  • The Israel Defense Force has created a 45-minute video based on actual footage taken by the Hamas terrorists on October 7. Several from Sharaka have watched the horrific video and could understand the hateful words the terrorists were saying in Arabic. They are working to counter those who deny the atrocities committed by Hamas.


  • In their home countries, the news and social media are very anti-Israel. They want people to understand the misperceptions being taught in Arab countries. When members of Sharaka visited Israel they found the people were open and warm and sought peace.


  • Each member of Sharaka is doing this work at significant personal risk in their homeland and community. Many have been targeted online. Their goal is to find those with a curiosity and an open-mind to listen and learn about Israel.


On Tuesday, the Sharaka delegation spoke to a diverse group of interfaith leaders representing the Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Hindu, Turkish Muslim, and Jewish communities. They listened to the panelists describe Sharaka’s efforts at peacebuilding and dialogue even as the Israel-Hamas war continues. Earlier that day, the delegation spoke at the Portland Rotary Club and received a standing ovation at the end of their presentation.


The Jewish Federation is grateful to the Israel Consulate in San Francisco for partnering with us in bringing Sharaka to our community. Following their visit here, they traveled to Seattle to have similar conversations.


Do not miss this year’s Weekend in Quest in Astoria from March 1-3, sponsored by the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education. This year’s scholar is Professor Nancy Harrowitz, Director of the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies and Professor of Italian and Jewish Studies at Boston University, who will speak on the history of Jews in Italy and their challenges of emancipation and identity. For more information and registration, click here.


We continue to provide our Weekly Wednesday Webinar Series from 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. with voices from Israel. This past week, the Israel Policy Forum provided a virtual drone tour of Gaza – recording here. Next week, we will hear from our partner, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and their ongoing work in Israel. You can register here.


Shabbat shalom.


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