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Walking Through History: Poland and the Holocaust

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Most of us know the miraculous story about Oskar Schindler—the man who risked everything during the Holocaust to save Jewish lives. One of the biggest and most troubling questions I often ask myself is “Where was everyone else?” as in, “Where were the moral people during the Holocaust?”

This past winter, I went on a trip to Poland with a Jewish organization called Aish Los Angeles. While on the trip, I learned that even in the midst of horror and death from the Nazi regime, there were still a small population of Polish people who were like Schindler—who risked their lives and the lives of their loved ones to save Jewish lives. During one Shabbat in Krakow, the group and I were fortunate enough to meet a Polish woman who shared her experience during World War II. As a young girl in her teenage years, she decided to take seventeen Jewish people into her home and hide them in a bunker under her family’s barn.As the old woman shared her story, her soul poured out a palpable energy, from which we felt her genuine love for not only the Jewish people, but also for humanity. One of the survivors drew a map of the barn, outlining the incredible blueprint of the master plan that saved their lives. This story truly offered me peace of mind to my difficult question and revived my faith that there are brave people who stand up for what is right.

survivorchildrenAt the end of hearing her story, each one of us hugged her to show our everlasting gratitude for taking this big risk and saving our people. We learned that most of the Polish people did not partake in persecuting the Jews. While there were many who unfortunately turned in their Jewish neighbors and in return they received money. Overall, however, we learned that there were other Polish people who had also risked—and some even lost—their lives trying save the Jewish people.

Unfortunately, many of us see the recent anti-Semitic acts in universities and other countries as being parallel to the Nazi’s initial hatred of the Jewish people, which led to the Holocaust. With constant news of attacks on the Jewish people, whether verbal or physical, it’s apparent that Jews are being targeted across the globe. Although we may see such atrocities, we should never lose faith that good and moral people exist in the world, like the Polish woman on my trip, who have ethics and who believe that regardless of religion, a human being has a right to live.

More importantly, we must also never forget our voice and our power to stand up for ourselves as the Jewish people. If we want to fight Antisemitism, we must show the world the greatness of the Jewish people. We are in contact with non-Jewish people everyday and we thus have the ability to mold the image the Jewish people by the way we present ourselves through our communication and our actions. We must carry ourselves in a way that elicits respect from everyone. Having positive and respectful daily interactions with others is the most powerful way for us Jews to create a positive image of our people and allows us to make a large impact on the world.

group picI am blessed to have had this opportunity to embark on such an amazing trip to Poland. This trip has not only educated me about the history of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, but it has also given me the opportunity to experience it. I have walked in the ghettos where Jews were relocated, I have stood inside a cattle car that in the past had traveled to concentration camps, and I have felt chills go down my spine as I walked through Auschwitz, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Treblinka. While the trip had many disheartening yet also powerful experiences, one of the most uplifting moments on the trip was when we visited several synagogues on Shabbat. After many decades of their perseverance, I felt so grateful and in awe to be praying in the most unique, decorated, and breathtakingly beautiful synagogues. Praying on the other side of the mechizah, while hearing the men lead prayers in their minyan was so touching and powerful. This experience has assured me that our generation will continue to hold and pass on the light of the Jewish nation.

Although we have visited many devastating sites, the group felt a sense of pride and a strong connection with their Jewish identity, as our people have persevered through tough times and are now still standing as one united nation. You may hear about the Holocaust, read about it, watch movies about it, but there is no better way to really understand it until you visit Poland. I pray for every Jew to have this life changing opportunity and to feel a true connection to the phrase Am Israel Chai.

 

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Jasmin Mahgerefteh graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in history and earned magna cum laude honors. Her interest in providing quality patient care and patient education has led her to pursue a career in the health care field. She is passionate about helping the community strive through volunteer work and by being a part of many organizations such as Nessah Synagogue’s Reach-U-All and Nessah Young Professionals. She believes that as active members in the community, individuals can work in collaboration with others in order to strengthen the future generations. If you would like to contact Jasmin, you can email her at jmahgerefteh16@ucla.edu.

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IsraAID is launching the Humanitarian Professionals Network (IHPN) in Los Angeles and Bay Area

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 World-renowned Israeli Humanitarian and disaster relief organization expands presence in U.S. by offering Americans training andopportunities for Disaster relief deployment

Los Angeles, CA – On January 10, 2019, in Los Angeles, disaster relief NGO IsraAID will launch its new aid initiative, The IsraAID Humanitarian Professionals Network (IHPN), an elite program that trains doctors, dentists, nurses, engineers and mental health professionals in disaster response and deploys them around the world to helpsave lives.

IHPN members become part of a network of likeminded professionals at the top of theirfields, joining a robust roster of professionals in Israel, and have a chanceto share Israel’s humanitarian ethos with communities in need. Current IsraAID missions span disasters such as the wildfires in California, refugee crises in Greece, Kenya, Bangladesh, violence in Uganda, and cyclones in Vanuatu.

“IsraAID draws on Israeli social innovation and expertise to benefit people in need around the world. We are now leveraging our organization’s unique capabilities to train professionals in the U.S. interested in developing life-saving skills and joining humanitarian relief missions globally, hand in hand with professionals from Israel” said Seth H. Davis, Executive Director of IsraAID U.S. “IHPN will equip skilled individuals in hands-on disaster relief experience and provide enhanced capacity if local disaster were too strike.”

The first event, entitled “What You Need to Know About Humanitarian Aid,” will feature speaker Tim Burke, MA, MPH, who lead IsraAID’s work in South Sudan for five years, where he oversaw programs in public health and post-conflict development. Subsequent speakers include atmospheric physicist Colin Price and refugee crises expert Dr. Nir Boms.

With deployment in 49 countries, and currently active in 19 countries, IsraAID is an expert in training professionals to deploy. In the U.S. alone in the last year, IsraAID has provided humanitarian relief in Florida, Texas, North Carolina, California, and Puerto Rico.

“IsraAID will make Los Angeles more secure by leveraging their unique expertise in disaster response to train professionals in our community,” said [Paul Koretz]. “I look forward to working with IsraAID to help them rollout their IHPN program in California”

Professionals interested in attending should RSVP here  and/or learn more and join the network here.

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About IHPN: The IsraAID HumanitarianProfessionals Network (IHPN) is an exclusive network of professionals at thevanguard of global aid relief activities. Members of IHPN receive expert briefings, emergency-preparedness training, access to enrichment with field leaders,and priority access to deploy on IsraAID missions.

About IsraAID: IsraAID is anon-governmental organization that provides lifesaving emergency relief andlong-term, sustainable solutions for populations affected by natural disasters, epidemics and post-conflict situations. Our teams leverage Israeli innovation,work in full collaboration with local partners, and educate the public and professionals on disaster prevention and relief. IsraAID (US) Global Humanitarian Assistance, Inc. is an independent 501c(3)organization.

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Nothing Matters More Than This

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We live in a world where FOCUS is even MORE important than your INTELLIGENCE.

From our never-ending Facebook feed, to our freshly-updated YouTube subscription page, to our email inbox, we live in an abundant world of information.

However, is it really necessary to consume all of this general information?

Will it ever be useful? Will it ever make any difference in your life?

No. Most likely not.

Learning a little about a lot of different things doesn’t really amount to much.

Instead, you should FOCUS.

Focus on learning and applying ONE skill as intensely and deeply as possible.

Focus is where mastery kicks in.

Kobe Bryant wasn’t the best basketball player that ever played because he was the best all-around person.

Kobe Bryant was world-class because he was absolutely great at ONE thing and one thing only: playing basketball.

So instead of consuming as much general information as you possibly can… instead FOCUS.

FOCUS on one topic. FOCUS on one task. FOCUS on one goal.

Because today, more than ever, focus is way more important than your intelligence.

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New Initiative Launched to Restore Memories and a Legacy

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On Tuesday January 30th, Thirty Years After (30 YA) hosted the Legacy Launch, one of their largest, most innovative and interactive projects to date, at the Ahyra Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills.

Sam Yebri, President of Thirty Years After, explains the Legacy Project, “The Project is a grassroots initiative that will help preserve and honor the Iranian  Jewish experience through video for future generations,  and provide an opportunity for every family to capture their parents’  and grandparents’ most compelling memories and anecdotes before it is  too late.”

Doors opened to guest at 7:00 pm where they were greeted with smiles from 30 YA volunteers and staff members. The lobby was packed with guests who were treated to wonderful Iranian street food not often seen or eaten in the United States. The delicious cuisine included Labu (beets baked in their own juice, and typically served steaming hot in a street cart during the dead of winter), Baghali (beans topped with spices, typically served the same way as Labu), Dizi (a meat mash/stew– usually made with lamb, but made with beef and chickpeas at our event), Shohleh Zard (saffron rice pudding), Chos-e-fil (otherwise known as popcorn) and Mahi-Cheh Polo (herbed rice with beef shanks).

The large number of attendees was a testament to the genuine and unprecedented support for the new generation of leaders of the Los Angeles Iranian-American Jewish community.  The printed program for the event listed over 25 generous families and businesses that supported the Legacy Launch and congratulated 30 YA on celebrating their 10 year anniversary.

This event was magical because of the broad range of emotions experienced just by being shoulder to shoulder with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins born in Tehran. Sadness is one emotion that could have been felt while standing in the room, because of all of the untold stories that were not recorded, told or heard. How many stories have we “missed out” on because family members have passed away, younger generations have gone off to college, or simply because we took time for granted? At the Legacy Launch, time stood still for a few hours for the sake of a community recording the past, but very aware of time, embracing beloved memories on video, but also progressively moving toward the future.

Yebri explained, “Our history informs our present and powers our future. This is especially true when our families and community have such a rich legacy of inspiring memories and experiences in Iran and during our exodus to America.  30 Years After  is thrilled to launch ‘The Legacy Project’ as part of the organization’s 10th anniversary celebration.”

Bobby Zolekhian, former President of Nessah Young Professionals expressed, “It was one of the most inspirational events I have been to. I am recruiting people to share their stories. This is something extraordinary!”

Featured guest speakers during the screening included Mrs. Susan Azizzadeh, President of the Iranian American Jewish Federation, Dr. Saba Soomekh, Assistant Director of Interreligious and Intercommunity Affairs at AJC, Megan Nemandoust, Margalit Rosenthal, Liora Simozar and 30 YA President, Sam Yebri.

The dynamic presentation of the screening and its intimate interviews clearly validated that the second and third generations of Iranian Jews growing up in the United States are confidently embracing their unspoken responsibility to record the stories of generations before them for a purpose with a greater cause– maintaining their identity, culture, and traditions.

Learn more about preserving your legacy with 30 YA at https://legacy.30yearsafter.org/

 

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november, 2019

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