Stanley H. Stone

June 17, 2022

Dear ASYV Family,

Each week, I begin this message with “Dear Family,” for I truly believe we are a family; that it is our collective responsibility and sacred duty to remember those brothers and sisters lost during the Shoah and to educate the next generations about its meanings and lessons as they relate to today.

For three decades, Zoya Pisarenko has been part of the Yad Vashem/ASYV family, serving as Director of Finance. More than a year ago, she shared her plans to step down. If you know Zoya and her commitment to Yad Vashem/ASYV, you will understand that she wanted ASYV to have a seamless transition. Zoya began her tenure with ASYV as Eli Zborowski’s, A’H, assistant. There was no task that Zoya did not do to further the mission of Yad Vashem/ASYV. Over the years, she grew into the position of Director of Finance. Despite moving up the ladder, Zoya remained the go-to logistics person in the office. Her practical “let’s solve this” approach ensured that everything ran smoothly from office operations to events. Her goal has always been to further Yad Vashem/ASYV’s mission. It will be hard to imagine what ASYV will be like when Zoya completes her dedicated service at the end of the month.

This week’s Torah portion, Behaalotekha, opens with Aaron expressing his disappointment at not contributing to the dedication of the Tabernacle as the other tribal leaders had. G-d reassures him that while he did not provide an object for dedication, he was given the responsibility to light the Menorah in the Tabernacle every day. The Rebbe of Modzitz notes that the Menorah, which was made from a single block of gold, represents unity and togetherness. By lighting the Menorah every day, Aaron brings people together and reminds them of their shared purpose. Like Aaron, Zoya has been behind the scenes bringing people together through ASYV. Thank you, Zoya, for your dedication and selflessness on behalf of Yad Vashem and ASYV. We wish you and your husband, Yefim, all the best as you embark on your next chapter.

Shabbat Shalom,

Stanley H. Stone

Executive Director

 

June 10, 2022

Dear ASYV Family,

This has been a newsworthy week for Yad Vashem. It began with a tribute in the New York Times to Andree Geulen, a Righteous Among the Nations (RAN), who passed away at 100 years old. Ms. Geulen was a young Belgian teacher at an all-girls school in Brussels in the 1940s when her Jewish students were told that they had to sew yellow stars onto their uniforms, but one of the antisemitic decrees by the occupying Germans to identify and isolate Jews. In response, Ms. Geulen, in a show of solidarity, had all the girls in the class – Jews and non-Jews alike, put aprons on over their uniforms. As the war progressed, Ms. Geulen volunteered to help a clandestine group, the Committee for the Defense of Jews, dedicated to bringing Jewish children out of harm’s way. She was credited with saving 300 to 400 Jewish children ranging from newborns to teenagers. May her memory be a blessing.

And just yesterday, there was a historic meeting between Pope Francis and Dani Dayan, Chairman of Yad Vashem. While Pope Francis visited Yad Vashem (in 2014), as did his two predecessors (Popes John Paul II and Benedictus XVI), it was the first time a Yad Vashem Chairman had a private audience at the Vatican. The meeting focused on the critical importance of Holocaust remembrance in our contemporary world and on the ways in which the Church can contribute to meaningful and accurate remembrance.

These two events clearly illustrate the key role that Yad Vashem plays on the international stage as the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. It is only Yad Vashem that can confer the honor of Righteous Among the Nations. The private audience with Pope Francis ascribes to the esteem in which Yad Vashem is held.

As always, thank you for your continued interest and partnership. It is through your support that we ensure the memory of Andree Geulen and other RAN and keep Holocaust education and commemoration in the forefront of our collective priorities.

Please see below for the Save the Date for the ASYV National Gala honoring Lenny Wilf on Thursday, November 3rd in New York City and livestreamed throughout the country. I hope you will join us.

Shabbat Shalom,

Stanley H. Stone

Executive Director

June 3, 2022

Dear ASYV Family,

This week’s Torah portion, Bamidbar, describes how the Jewish people traveled in the desert. The interpretation of the text, Midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 2:8), explains that G-d instructed Moses to have the Jewish people travel and encamp in a set formation during their journey. Moses anticipated that the tribes would protest and argue over their positioning assignments, and thus wondered why G-d commanded a system that would likely lead to discord and infighting. G-d responded to Moses’s concerns explaining that the Jewish people were already familiar with this arrangement from Jacob’s funeral many years earlier, during which his sons surrounded his coffin in a particular formation– the precise formation that G-d wanted when the Jewish people traveled and encamped through the wilderness on their way to Israel.

Why did Moses anticipate arguing over the positions in the wilderness, and why did G-d compare the tribes’ encampment in the wilderness to Jacob’s sons’ formation as they transported his coffin?  One explanation is that Moses understood people’s natural fragility in stressful periods. If G-d began imposing demands and protocols during travel, when the Jewish people were likely tense and unsettled, the frustration and anxiety would overcome them and lead to fighting. Jacob’s funeral served as an example of when, even during a period of grief and uncertainty about the future, the brothers conducted themselves with dignity and marched in a peaceful, orderly fashion.  Despite charged emotions of anxiety and sorrow, harmony and stability prevailed.

The Midrash emphasizes the special effort that is required during times of transition in order to maintain one’s composure and relationships with others; through G-d’s command of a structured, orderly arrangement, the Midrash interprets the importance of dignity and poise in periods of hardship.

Refusing to abandon tradition and keeping order has anchored the Jewish people for 3,000 years. Our treasured Holocaust survivors found a way to have faith and strengthen traditions against all odds. A striking example is captured in a photograph that hangs in Yad Vashem’s Holocaust History Museum, of the 1945 Shavuot prayer service in the liberated Buchenwald camp in Germany. Leading the service was a young Jewish chaplain, Rabbi Herschel Schacter, z”l, who was amongst the camp’s liberators. Little did Rabbi Schacter know that the small boy sitting in the front row would grow up to be Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, a leading voice for Holocaust remembrance and education, and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council. See below for more information and a video of Rabbi Lau and Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, the son of Rabbi Herschel Schacter z”l.

Rabbi Lau noted years later, “We will never allow the torch of our Jewish tradition to be extinguished.  We will light it over and over, and pass it from one generation to another, so that the chain remains unbroken.”

Yad Vashem is committed to ensuring the torch of our Jewish tradition never goes out. Thank you for partnering with us in our mission.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Shavout Sameach,

Stanley H. Stone

Executive Director

May 27, 2022

Dear ASYV Family,

Again, we begin this weekly update with a heavy heart as we grieve alongside the community of Uvalde, TX and all of those affected by Tuesday’s tragic event at Robb Elementary School. We wish a full recovery to those injured and may the memories of those lost be a blessing.

This Sunday, we will commemorate and celebrate the re-unification of Jerusalem. In 1967, Israel miraculously reunified Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. Shortly after that amazing victory, Eli Wiesel wrote the following piece:

Future generations will probably never believe it. Teachers will have a hard time convincing their students that what sounds legendary occurred. The children will, naturally, swallow each word, but later on, as adults, they’ll nod their heads and smile, remarking that these were fantasies of history. They won’t believe that this small state, surrounded by hatred, fire and murder, had so quickly managed a miracle. It will be hard to describe how, amid a sea of hatred, a tiny army drove off and humiliated several well-equipped military hordes of who knows how many Arab countries. How does acclaimed scholar and Talmudic genius Shaul Lieberman put it? In another 2,000 years, people will consider these events the way we think of descriptions of the Maccabees and their victories. Did I say another 2,000 years? No, make that in another year, or even tomorrow….

We all need to recite the Hallel thanksgiving prayer for being granted the privilege of witnessing these events. The battle has not yet ended, but the enemy has already retreated and won’t easily recover. It may well be that future generations won’t comprehend how Israel vanquished her enemies. Yes, there are sacrifices, but in the long run nothing gets lost. And yet the blood that was shed by our young lions, the sacrifices endured, everything will be inscribed. Each widow’s tear, every death rattle of the fallen soldiers – they won’t pass unnoticed by our descendants….”

This new Jewish awakening is part of that miracle, a part of the Jewish victory. Those who thought Jews were frightened by huge armies were mistaken, and those who thought you could separate the Jewish state from the Jewish people around the world clearly underestimated us.

Let’s take a moment to express our Jewish pride—to remember where we came from and the sacrifices we made to get where we are today. In the words of our Young Leadership Associates, “We are still here.”

Thank you for you support, your interest and commitment to Yad Vashem and ASYV. You are part of this miraculous story.

Shabbat Shalom,

Stanley H. Stone

Executive Director

May 20, 2022

Dear ASYV Family,

I hope this weekly update finds you and your family well.

This past week, we had the honor and pleasure of hosting Dani Dayan, Chairman of Yad Vashem and Dr. Haim Gertner, Managing Director of International Relations at Yad Vashem in New York City. On Tuesday evening, ASYV hosted an in-person event for members of ASYV’s Partners Circle. Dani Dayan and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, spoke about lessons of the Holocaust and confronting modern-day antisemitism. The conversation was superbly moderated by Michael Miller, CEO Emeritus of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.

Yesterday marked Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer (the 49-day period between Passover and Shavuot), when the first fruits were brought to the Temple in Jerusalem. According to the Talmud, it was during this period that 24,000 of Rabbi Akivah’s students died from the plague–but on Lag B’Omer, the plague ceased for a day. According to Rabbinic tradition, the reason for the plague was that Rabbi Akivah’s students did not have enough regard for one another (Yevamot 62b).

One of the most intense periods of the Shoah took place during the Omer of 1944, when the Germans invaded Hungary and deported and murdered 437,302 people. Ironically, during this year’s 2022 Omer, a white supremacist gunman walked into a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, killing ten people of color and injuring three others. The spate of racially motivated killings is a modern-day plague that stems from lack of regard for others. Just as the Nazis and their collaborators lacked regard for the Jews, that disregard continues today toward people of color and ethnic minorities.

Yad Vashem was established as a reminder to the Jewish people and the world of what can happen when we lack regard for one another and allow hatred to fester. Thanks to your continued support, Yad Vashem is a critical global resource in educating countless people about lessons of the Shoah and fighting hatred and bigotry. May the lessons of the Shoah and the lessons of Rabbi Akivah continue to remind and inspire us to regard others with respect and understanding. And, may every day be like Lag B’Omer.

Thank you for all that you do to support Yad Vashem and its mission.

Shabbat Shalom,

Stanley H. Stone

Executive Director

May 13, 2022

Dear ASYV Family,

I hope you and your family are well.

Last week, Israel commemorated Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron, and celebrated Independence Day, Yom Haatzmaut. The week before, we marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom Hashoah, as Yad Vashem does every year with a moving ceremony on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem. Additionally, Yad Vashem marked another notable event that I want to let you know about: the official dedication of a special facility in the Israel Defense Force (IDF) “city” of training bases, called “Ir Habahadim” located just south of Beersheba.

This is the first center Yad Vashem opened beyond the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem and the first time the IDF has allowed an external institution to operate a permanent educational program from within an army base. The new facility has been designed specifically to engage young people, learning to defend their country. Young soldiers will gain a better understanding of the Jewish world that existed before the Holocaust and get to explore enduring values such as Jewish identity, leadership, and heroism. They will come away inspired and with a deeper sense of purpose as defenders of the Jewish people in the land of Israel.

I invite you to read about this new facility in The Times of Israel and JNS.

I hope that you share our pride in what Yad Vashem is doing to not only remember the past but also to educate and inspire generations to come, so that the world will never forget.

Thank you for all that you do to support Yad Vashem and its mission.

Shabbat Shalom,

Stanley H. Stone

Executive Director

May 6, 2022

Dear ASYV Family,

I hope this weekly message finds you and your family well.

On Wednesday, Israel commemorated Memorial Day/Yom HaZikaron and yesterday celebrated its 74th birthday on Independence Day/Yom Ha’Atzmaut. The connection between the two holidays is stark; one would not be if not for the other. Holocaust survivors, who had only recently become free, played an important role in the establishment of the State of Israel. Such individuals are heroic examples of resilience and renaissance.

Yitzhak Arad was one of these survivors. Born in Swieciany, Poland (present day Lithuania) in 1926, he was living in Warsaw when the war broke out. In September 1941, with the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Jews of his town were taken to killing pits. Arad managed to escape and sneak back into the town’s ghetto, where he worked in a munitions warehouse. He began to smuggle weaponry and helped form an underground movement within the ghetto. In February 1943, he escaped to a nearby forest, where he joined the Soviet partisans until the end of the war. Together, they fought the Germans and their collaborators in the Narocz Forest of Belarus and in eastern Lithuania, for which Arad received the highest partisan award.

In December 1945, Arad immigrated to Eretz Israel on the illegal immigrant ship “Hannah Szenes.” He served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) primarily in the armored brigade. His last appointment was IDF Chief Education Officer and he retired in 1972. Dr. Arad went on to become Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate and a senior Holocaust research scholar, working diligently to commemorate the Holocaust and establishing the Valley of the Communities on the Mount of Remembrance. He passed away in May 2021 at the age of 95. May his memory be a blessing.

The lunar cycle strongly represents the fate of the Jewish people; the moon grows to fullness over a period of 15 days and then declines for the next 15 until it disappears. Suddenly, a new cycle begins. To the survivors who had just come out of unspeakable darkness, they embraced the light of the State of Israel and contributed to its miraculous growth. Today, historians look at Israel through three stages: 1948 and the reestablishment of sovereign Israel; 1967 and the Six Day War when the State remained small and vulnerable; and lastly, but most importantly, Israel’s rise to prominence in technology and science to advance human prosperity.

May Israel continue to be a light unto the nations/Ohr Lagoyim. Thank you for the vital role you play in ensuring it will. Happy birthday, Israel!

Stanley H. Stone

Executive Director

April 29, 2022

Dear ASYV Family,

I hope this weekly message finds you and your family well and that you had a wonderful Passover. I am privileged to be in Israel on the Yad Vashem/ASYV Mission of Dedication & Commemoration. This first mission of its kind has been an opportunity to learn in-depth about the amazing work of Yad Vashem and to participate in two significant ceremonies—one ensuring the future, the other remembering the past. Please indulge this longer message; the mission has given me so much to think about.

The mission began with the dedication of the Yad Vashem Center at the Ariel Sharon IDF Training Base (Ir Habadim) in the Negev. There, combat support soldiers from various backgrounds are given an opportunity, using sophisticated technology and a unique pedagogy, to learn about the Holocaust and how it shapes their roles in the army. The impact of this experience on the soldiers is simply remarkable. On Wednesday evening, we were privileged to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah, at the official ceremony at Yad Vashem led by Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. This emotional ceremony included the lighting of six torches by six survivors whose stories were shared. Each story was moving and reinforced the heroism of the survivors. It was not lost on me that we are nearing the end of being able to have survivors participate this important event. Shmuel Blumenfeld was to be one of the torch lighters; two weeks ago, he passed away, leaving his son to light the torch. May his memory be a blessing.

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, as the memorial siren sounded at 10:00 AM, I joined with everyone standing in silence, thinking about my paternal grandparents, Hulda & Issak Steinberger, who were deported and killed in the Riga Ghetto; I thought about how lucky I was to be in the strong and independent State of Israel.

Over the past three months with the events unfolding in Ukraine, I have asked myself the question that many theologians, philosophers, and survivors have asked: Do you have faith in humanity after the Holocaust? Rabbi Sacks z”l notes that the Holocaust represented perhaps the greatest failure humanity has ever known. It featured the combination of technical brilliance and bureaucratic efficiency but was dedicated to the evilest of all purposes–truly the greatest failure of humanity. However, the Avenue of Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem restores our faith; today, 28,000 people are honored there, those who put their own lives at risk to save the lives of their neighbors and, in some cases, strangers. We have not forgotten. Today, Israel has been at the forefront responding to the tragic events unfolding in Ukraine, establishing the first field hospital, providing millions of dollars in humanitarian aid, and taking in thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish refugees.

Many thanks to the mission participants, ASYV leaders, and donors who were in Israel for these meaningful ceremonies. I would like to extend special thanks to Andrea and Loren Weiss, Mission Chairs and Amy Cooper, ASYV National Campaign Director, who coordinated this program, as well as my colleagues at Yad Vashem for putting together an incredibly moving and informative four days.

On Holocaust Remembrance Day and every day, we remember the events of the past but also look forward to a brighter future. We honor the survivors and embrace our responsibility as the living links to their testimonies and experiences. As always, thank you for your continued support of our critical work.

Please see below for what’s coming up, what you may have missed, and Yad Vashem in the news.

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem,

Stanley H. Stone

Executive Director