July 19, 2024
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July 19, 2024
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Senior Wiesenthal Center Scholar Addresses The Frisch School

Mr. Mark Weitzman, Director of Government Affairs of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Chief Representative to the United Nations, is a globally recognized expert and scholar of international relations, anti-Semitism, extremism and digital hate.  At the Frisch School’s annual Abraham and Fela Kolat Memorial Yom Hashoah Program, Weitzman spoke to the students about the realities of contemporary anti-Semitism in Europe, in the United States and on the internet. Mr. Weitzman, who regularly meets with world leaders, diplomats and experts to discuss these issues, spoke about both the sources and the troubling magnitude of modern anti-Semitism. At the same time, Weitzman also described efforts by political leaders in France, Germany and the United States to combat the latest manifestations of this age-old hatred. Mr. Weitzman urged the students to keep informed, to be vigilant and to assume active roles in defense of Jews throughout the world and of Medinat Yisrael.

During the evening prior to the Yom Hashoah program, each student read “Why I Am Afraid,” a short piece written by Elie Wiesel forty years ago, in 1974, in the after math of the Yom Kippur War. In a dated, but unfortunately all too contemporary essay, Wiesel expressed the fear of a Holocaust survivor as he watched the seeming indifference of the world to the plight of Israel during those first terrible weeks of the war—“the dramatic loneliness of this universal people.” He conveyed the worry of the upsurge of anti-Semitism—“[h]ate of the Jew has once more become fashionable.”

In their Gemara class on the morning of Yom Hashoah the students worked through and discussed a series of sources on the halakhic and ideological question of whether there should be a special day designated to commemorate the Shoah or whether all commemoration of Jewish suffering through the ages should be limited to Tisha B’Av. The sources—based on a shiur by Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter—indicate that while there has been significant rabbinic opposition to the Knesset’s decision to establish Yom Hashoah, there is ample precedent and rabbinic sanction for the establishment of days of commemoration and fasting in reaction to tragedies in the Jewish world.

The program concluded with a series of readings and dramatic presentations by students, interspersed with short films on both the Shoah and on anti-Semitic events right here in the United States during the last year. A Kel Maleh in memory of the Six Million closed the assembly.

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