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Faith In Brooklyn for May 9

May 9, 2017 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz’s (above) Creative Arts Contest was inspired by Elie Wiesel. Photo courtesy of Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz

Students Respond to Holocaust’s Lessons as Part of 17th Annual Creative Arts Contest

Stories of providing sanctuary and of survival during the Holocaust provided the theme for this year’s Creative Arts Contest that state Assembly-member Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Sheepshead Bay-Manhattan Beach-Gravesend) hosted last weekend.

Cymbrowitz honored the student winners of his 17th Annual Holocaust Memorial Creative Arts Contest on Sunday during a ceremony at Kingsborough Community College’s Marine Academic Center. The contest also unites the generations who survived with young students.

This year’s contest had students responding to the following quote by Elie Wiesel (1928-2016): “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

The writer and Nobel laureate died within the past year.

In his opening remarks, Cymbrowitz spoke about some of the winning projects, including a suitcase filled with a teddy bear and other meager belongings of a young orphaned Holocaust survivor who was headed to a displaced persons’ (DP) camp after the war.

Cymbrowitz noted that his own parents, Sam and Sonia, spent five years in a German DP camp; his brother was born there as well.

“My parents were fortunate to have each other, but they too were forced to rebuild their lives amid terrible loss and devastation,” he said.

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After the war, just as now, some refugees had nowhere to go and some countries were unwilling to take them, Cymbrowitz said.

He spoke about one student’s project that presented a three-dimensional depiction of W.H. Auden’s poem “Refugee Blues”: “Once we had a country and we thought it fair/Look in the atlas and you’ll find it there/We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.”

“I’m proud that the Assembly district I represent includes many thousands of immigrants — people who came to the U.S. to escape countries where they couldn’t vote, couldn’t practice their religion and where they feared for their physical safety,” he said. “Blind hatred offends all of us deeply. We’re united by our respect for people of all religions and ethnic backgrounds. Our strength lies in our desire to treat each other with decency and kindness, and to speak out whenever we see people being mistreated.”

Addressing the sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents over the last year, Cymbrowitz told the audience, “Anti-Semitism is still alive and well, and that’s the reality we’re living with today. It’s a frightening reality, but being afraid won’t help us. What will help us is using our voices to stamp out hate. Using our words to make the world a better place.”

Cymbrowitz sponsors the contest along with the Manhattan Beach Jewish Center, Holocaust Memorial Committee, the Lena Cymbrowitz Foundation and Project Witness to honor the six million who perished and also to teach students that anti-Semitism and bias-motivated violence remain painfully relevant issues.

The ceremony included musical performances by the Edward R. Murrow High School Orchestra and Senior Chorus. The contest attracted entries ranging from essays to artworks to original dramatic performances, all conceived by third- through 12th graders in public and private schools throughout Cymbrowitz’ district.

Also on display was an exhibit called “Producing Silence: Hollywood, the Holocaust, and the Jews,” provided by the Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center and Archives at Queens-borough Community College.

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Brooklyn Heights Synagogue Declares Itself a Sanctuary Congregation

The Brooklyn Heights Synagogue’s (BHS) board of trustees has unanimously adopted a resolution declaring BHS a “sanctuary congregation,” joining other faith-based organizations in providing support to immigrants facing detention or deportation.

The synagogue, a member of the Union for Reform Judaism, is responding to a call to prevent the immediate threat of detention and deportation for millions of immigrants who live and work peacefully in this country.

The potential humanitarian crisis as families are torn apart and persons are deported to countries where they have not lived in many years is clear.

The Union for Reform Judaism recently stated, “We are instructed in the Holiness Code to treat the strangers in our midst with justice and compassion: ‘When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall do him no wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself for you were strangers in the land of Egypt, (Leviticus 19:33).’ This teaching permeates Jewish tradition and is echoed 35 times in the Torah, the most repeated of any commandment.

“The history of the Jewish people from Egypt through the Holocaust until today reminds us of the many struggles faced by immigrants throughout the world. As a community of immigrants, we are charged to pursue justice, seek peace and build a society that is welcoming to all of God’s creatures, regardless of their immigration status.”

In the coming months, BHS will look to collaborate with other faith-based organizations and community groups to provide an array of services to undocumented immigrants, such as “Know Your Rights” and other educational sessions; participating in rapid response teams to address immediate threats of deportation; engaging in issue advocacy at the local, state and federal level; and other legal and supportive services.

BHS will also review its capacity to provide physical shelter to one or more undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation. For further information, or to participate in efforts to aid immigrants and refugees, contact BHS Immigration/Refugee Task Force Chair Barbara Arky, chair of the at [email protected]

BHS has also joined other local congregations that have posted a sanctuary congregation banner.


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