Weekly Roundup: Evian, but not the water

by Rebecca Einstein Schorr on 04 September 2015 @ 3:01 pm

Weekly Roundup

The note reads: Make sure Mrs. Barkawi teaches about “Evian Conference” pg 307.


I had never heard of the Evian Conference until I was at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel during my junior year of high school. It was then that I learned that the world had had the opportunity to prevent the slaughter of European Jewry. Instead, they did nothing.

The Evian Conference was organized by FDR and was held in Evian-Les-Bains, France in July 1938. Dipolmatic representatives from the following countries, “Nations of Asylum,” were in attendance:

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Belguim
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Columbia
  • Costa Rica
  • Cuba
  • Denmark
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • France
  • Guatemala
  • Haiti
  • Hondurus
  • Ireland
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • Norway
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela

Two countries refused the invitation: Italy and South Africa. South Africa did, however, send an observer to the proceedings.

Reporters from 32 countries, emissaries from more than three dozen refugee/relief organizations, and a group of Nazis were also in attendance. The Nazis hadn’t been invited, but since no one knew quite what to do with them, they just let them stay.

The United States spoke first; what they had to say set the tone for the entire conference and sealed the fate of six million Jews. The United States announced that it was unable to alter its quota system. Most of the other countries followed suit.

Canada, Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela: Would only accept experienced agricultural workers.
Brazil: enacted a new law just prior to attending the conference requiring every visa application to be accompanied by a certificate of baptism.
Australia: “As we have no real racial problems, we are not desirous of importing one.”
Britain: concerned that an influx of German-Jewish refugees would “arouse anti-Semitic feeling in Great Britain.”
France: felt that after taking in 200,000 Jews, it had reached a “saturation point.”
Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras: classified all intellectuals (doctors, lawyers, professors) and merchants as “undesirables.”
Switzerland: having already been “inundated” with Jewish refugees after the fall of Austria (3,000-4,000 Austrian-Jews), the delegate stated that “Switzerland, which has as little use for these Jews as has Germany, will herself take measures to protect Switzerland from being swamped by Jews with the connivance of the Viennese police.”

So much for neutrality.

Three tiny countries, Denmark, Holland, and the Dominican Republic, did allow their gates to be opened for the refugees. But the message had already been sent to the Third Reich.

Four months later, Kristallnacht.

This was nearly 80 years ago.
And it was this past week.

The civil unrest in Syria has created a refugee situation not unlike the one during and leading up to the Second World War.
They’re not Jews this time, however. They are Muslims.

Sure, some of the rhetoric seems familiar.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia, which oppose an EU-wide quota on accepting refugees, have proposed creating a rail corridor linking Hungary to Germany.
Australia has simply closed its borders.
And yes, someone in the Czech Republic thought it was a good idea to write numbers on the arms of arriving refugees, as they stepped off the trains in order to prevent families of being separated. (Sounds like a euphemism to me.)

Unlike back in 1938, however, the other countries seem to recognize their responsibility in helping people in crisis.

Germany, who seems to have learned from its past, is leading the way in providing sanctuary for the refugees. Iceland, Canada, Denmark. They are right there with them. Even Prime Minister David Cameron changed his stance just this morning, due to public pressure, and has pledged that Great Britain will accept thousands of refugees.

Yes, this is a complicated issue. For many reasons. But we well know what happens when the world slams shut its gate.


The High Holy Days are just over a week away.


Though we tend to think of Yom Kippur as the Day of Atonement, it would be misleading to believe that one can simply show up on that day and complete the entire process in one day. That would be like deciding to run a marathon and just showing up the day of the race and giving it your best shot. [BTW, having completed both a full and a half marathon, I am completely qualified to make this analogy.]

Fortunately, the good folks over at Tablet Magazine have a new podcast called Unorthodox. And this week’s episode is all about apologies. How to make them. How not to make them. Spend the 40-some-odd minutes and hear what they have to say. And start thinking about to whom you owe an apology this year.


Finally, I’ve got some advice about food over at Kveller.

bris food

Not just any food. But what to serve at a bris/baby naming. Even if you think you know what to serve, I guarantee you’ll learn something new.


Have a great Shabbat…see you on the flip-side.


On My Nightstand: Hiroshima

by Rebecca Einstein Schorr on 02 September 2015 @ 9:52 am

on my nightstand

Along with the books I read of my own choosing, I also read the required books that are assigned to Ben. I started doing this when we first noticed he was struggling with reading way back in elementary school. Some of the titles are ones I’d read long ago, but most of them are new to me. Some are titles I never got around to reading; most are either books that were published after I graduated or ones that were unfamiliar to me. While some parents might find it burdensome, Ben is lucky; I love to read. Not only do I welcome the opportunity to be exposed to a new author or new subject matter, I absolutely love the conversations that Ben and I have as a result of my teaching the book to him.

And that is how I found myself reading John Hersey‘s Hiroshima this week.


Some may recall reading this in its original form; it was printed in its entirety in the August 31, 1946 issue of The New Yorker. That unprecedented decision has never been repeated. Not long after, it was published as a book.

John Hersey was a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who began as journalist and war correspondent. He traveled to Hiroshima one year after the bombing and interviewed dozens of witnesses. Ultimately, the 31,000 words focused on six of the survivors.

It is an easy read — insofar as Hersey’s writing style is plain and straightforward. That approach garnered not a little criticism from critics. Hersey maintained, both at the time and throughout the rest of his life, that his plain style was a deliberate choice. He felt that the detachment was necessary in order to present the witness accounts to the reader in the most factual manner. He did not want emotion to somehow draw him into the story.

And yet — the graphic descriptions of the aftermath that befell the people of Hiroshima seventy years ago, and Nagasaki just a few days later, are disturbing. As they should be. The decision of unleash the unprecedented power of the atomic bomb was, as eyewitnesses have documented, a difficult and painful one for President Truman. One that haunted him all of his days. And for good reason. Of the 245,000 people in Hiroshima on the morning of August 6, 1945, 100,000 died during and immediately after the blast. Radiation impacted both the ecological balance as well as wreaked havoc on the biological systems of the survivors. Not to mention the life-altering disfigurement and injuries.

What amazed me, however, was the response of the Japanese people. They blamed not the Americans, but their own government. Whom they believed would have driven the country into annihilation rather than surrender to the Allies. It took an action of such enormous magnitude to bring about the end of the war.

It’s a short book, and a quick read. But the stories will remain with me for a long time.


Pictures in My Mind

August 31, 2015

I love snapping photographs of my children. I try not to go overboard. For their sake as well as for mine. Today, we went on an adventure. Something that we don’t do very often. It’s hard to do things with Ben. It always has been. And, unfortunately, we got in the habit of taking the […]

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Weekly Roundup: Planning Ahead

August 28, 2015

I’m not exactly certain when it happened, but Lil has a new hobby. Baking. Not the Dunkin Heines kind of baking. The “from scratch” kind. Take earlier this week. Ben got his braces removed and Lilly wanted to make something that had been on the list of forbidden foods. “Caramel,” she said. Except Ben isn’t […]

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On My Nightstand: NeuroTribes

August 26, 2015

I’ve read just about every book on autism spectrum disorders out there. When Ben was first diagnosed in 2006, I did what I always do when faced with something I don’t understand; I headed to the bookstore. Borders, z”l, was always first on my list because it was walking distance from our house. I devoured […]

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And They’re Off!

August 24, 2015

Here is the thing about Ben’s autism and anxiety: every experience, even the good ones, cause him a great deal of angst. Today was the day he was scheduled to have his braces removed. A day, I had thought, he would anticipate with great excitement. After all, he’s had them on for a couple of […]

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Weekly Roundup: ELI Talk and more

August 21, 2015

It hardly seems possible that all three of the kids are home from camp. It really does seem as though they just left. This was our first summer with all of them gone at the same time…well, for part of the same time. Ben was away about four weeks longer than the littles. Now they […]

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On My Nightstand: Girl Waits With Gun

August 19, 2015

Back in 2002, I was yearning to get my hands dirty. In the garden, that is. It’s a feeling that, since my early twenties, rears its head every few years or so and is especially unexpected as I have a reputation of having somewhat of a black thumb. According to one of my rabbinical school […]

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On My Nightstand: The Perfect Son

August 12, 2015

Of all the novels available, I tend to steer clear of the ones where the protagonist or some other main character has one of the following issues: autism spectrum disorder Tourette’s Disorder anxiety disorder bipolar disorder In other words, pretty much any type of disorder…which ends with disorder. (Or movies. I don’t watch movies with […]

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On My Nightstand: The Art of Baking Blind

August 8, 2015

Those who know me, IRL or online, know that I am a bibliophile. I love the written word, and will voraciously consume books of nearly any genre. It seems only natural, therefore, for me to share my thoughts on my never-ending, or is it ever-growing, reading list. Which brings us to a new series — […]

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