Rabbi Lazowski and Avinoam Patt on NPR’s Where We Live

Highlights from 2018

Wishing you health, happiness and a memorable new year! Thank you for an incredible 2018! When we think back over the year, we are humbled by and thankful for the support we received from the entire community. Your gift as a donation of time and/or money contributed to the remarkable impact that Voices of Hope has had throughout Connecticut. 

Here are a few highlights:
In July 2018, legislation was passed requiring Holocaust and genocide education and awareness in the CT Social Studies curriculum.
Evolution of the HERO (Holocaust Education Resource and Outreach) Center, a joint initiative between Voices of Hope and the Maurice Greenberg Center at the University of Hartford, in January 2018. Over 4000 students and educators across Connecticut were impacted by the HERO Center in its first year.

Inaugural New England Descendants of the Shoah Conference with close to 150 participants was held in November.

An Evening of Hope hosted over 230 community members and featured one of the Violins of Hope. We honored Matt and Elysha Dicks with the L’Dor V’Dor recognition and Joe Olzacki and Avinoam Patt with the Simon Konover Recognition for Excellence in Holocaust Teaching.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day honored local Holocaust survivors and presented Ben Cooper, a Holocaust liberator, with the Chesed Award, over 300 attended. Sign up today for the 2019 commemoration on 1/27.

First Voices of Hope scholarship was awarded to a student traveling to Europe to learn about the Holocaust.

In 2018, we hosted and partnered with local organizations and schools on over 15 commemorative, educational and communal events. Visit us online to see photos from past events and to view our 2019 calendar.

Thank you for being a part of a memorable year and we look forward to so much more in 2019. Help us make a bigger impact with a donation today!

We cannot change the past, we can only hope these stories and life lessons will positively affect the future.    Many thanks and best wishes in the New Year!

Wishing you health, happiness and a memorable new year!

They’re not jokes. They’re insults. And they need to stop.

Originally appeared HERE in the Hartford Courant

By Sarah Lewis

People who casually make anti-Semitic jokes might think it’s harmless, slightly more edgy than your average pun. The best jokes are risky, leaving everyone gasping with mock indignation and laughter. They think that if they can tell these jokes and glance at their Jewish friend without them flinching, they too must think it’s funny.

It’s not.

I once watched as someone handed out pamphlets bearing an image of Auschwitz to all the Jewish kids on a school trip (including myself) and how affronted that person became when one of the kids (who had family among the 6 million dead) told him off.

“It was a joke,” he said. “I make dumb jokes sometimes. I didn’t mean anything.”

There it is, the moral loophole, the “I didn’t mean it.” Tack an “I didn’t mean it” onto the end of hate speech, and suddenly you’re untouchable; after all, you’re only kidding, you’re not doing anything bad — except that you are. You make it normal. You say these things with your tongue in your cheek and breathe life into the monster that lurks in the corner of our vision.

You indicate to everyone that it’s OK to make jokes about the length of our noses and avarice in our souls.

As a Jewish person, I know that when you hear people say hateful things about you, even in levity, and find that it is met with no criticism, you accept and internalize it. You realize that Judaism presents itself like a rash. You hear things like “You don’t look Jewish. Wait, you straighten your hair, don’t you?” and “Did you have your nose fixed?”

So you stare at yourself in the mirror, hoping that whichever God exists will be gentle enough to make you look gentile.

You realize it’s normal for people to say you’re “not really a Jew” because you returned the money they lent you. So the next time you go out to eat and forget your wallet, you go hungry; you don’t want to ask again.

Worse still are the Holocaust jokes. When I was 11, the boy I had a crush on whispered a joke to his friend, both of them cackling. I begged him to tell it to me and suddenly he looked reluctant. “OK,” he said, but “you have to promise not to get mad.” “I won’t! I promise!” That was a mistake.

I froze when he told the joke, a sick feeling turning my stomach. But what could I do? I’d promised.

Years later, I sat in grim silence as a fellow counselor in training at a summer camp rattled off joke after joke about the Holocaust. It’s during those times you realize that if it’s OK to make fun of the death of 6 million people, then maybe we’re not really considered people at all.

Of course, the person making anti-Semitic jokes doesn’t realize any of this. They wouldn’t. Their “gentility” affords them that protection.

They did not realize any of this because they did not care enough to consider, and besides, if they didn’t think about it, if they didn’t realize the harm it could do, then how can they be held accountable for what they said? They “didn’t mean it,” after all.

I hold them accountable. They cannot hide behind protestations of “I didn’t mean it” or “I was only kidding.” Words have power. After all, the gunman in the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh began his lethal trajectory with anti-Semitic words posted on a website. Was he only kidding too?

Sarah Lewis, 17, lives in West Hartford and is a Hall High School senior.

The Courant invites writers younger than 30 to write essays of 650 words containing strong views. Please email your submission to freshtalk@courant.com, with your full name, hometown, daytime phone number, age and occupation (or your school’s name and your level in school).

Descendants of the Shoah conference is not just for descendants of the Shoah

From the Jewish Ledger

By Stacey Dresner

WEST HARTFORD – As a descendant of Holocaust survivors, Sharone Kornman says she used to think her parents’ experience didn’t affect her when she was growing up in Teaneck, New Jersey.

“I had a happy childhood,” she says. “If you had asked me when I was 25 I would have told you it didn’t have any impact on me at all. But my college essay was about being a child of survivors – so even then, when I was 17, it was something that I thought about. It wasn’t a central part of my life, but it was something I wrote about. It wasn’t something that I felt defined me, but I guess it did.”

Kornman and her mother have attended Holocaust survivor conferences in Boston, Warsaw, and Texas. Each time, she has bonded with other second-generation survivors who have attended with their parents.

“There is an instant connection, and a whole bunch of things we don’t even have to say to each other because we already understand,” she says.

That connection between members of the second generation of Holocaust survivors is just one of the goals of the upcoming Descendants of the Shoah: New England Holocaust Conference, which will be held on Sunday, Nov. 11, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., at the University of Hartford. The conference is sponsored by Voices of Hope, an organization founded by descendants of Holocaust survivors from across Connecticut to raise awareness about the Holocaust and to fight hate and intolerance.

“One of the things that Voices of Hope has been striving to do is have some bonding sessions with our descendants…They have a bond that none of us can relate to and it is very important for them to be able to discuss similar issues that they are experiencing,” says Kathy Fishman, director of operations and programming for Voices of Hope. “We have been bringing survivors into schools for the past eight years to tell their stories, but there will be a time when survivors are no longer around and we will need the second generation to be a voice.”

Kornman, a Voices of Hope board member, along with conference co-chairs Estelle Kafer and Eliane Sandler, who are also descendants of Holocaust survivors, have labored to create a conference that raises “consciousness about Holocaust history, personal experiences and the continuity of remembrance.”

The daylong conference will offer a variety of sessions led by authors, educators, and descendants of Holocaust survivors, structured into four one-hour sessions – two in the morning and two in the afternoon.

Sessions include a Second Generation Authors Panel with Caroline Heller and Hanna Marcus; “Who We Are and Why We Came,” “Life Before and After the Shoah,” with Prof. Avinoam Patt of the Greenberg Center and two films. More general topics include “A Bissel Yiddish,” and a workshop on how to research and document one’s family history.

During a kosher lunch, keynote speaker Professor Omer Bartov of Brown University will speak on “The Life and Death of My Mother’s Hometown: Anatomy of the Holocaust.”

Event co-chair Estelle Kafer agreed that the conference will give the descendants of survivors a chance to meet and network.

Kafer’s father, whose entire family was murdered in his native Lithuania, survived the war by using the trade his father had insisted he pursue – he was a tailor who worked under the Nazis and then later the Russians. Kafer didn’t know the extent of his experiences until college when she asked him to share his story with her.

“The gates opened and he started talking, and didn’t stop until he died five or six years ago at 95,” she recalls.

Last year Kafer, who is the director of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford, participated in Speak Up, a program that helps the second generation learn how to speak about their parents’ experiences through their own stories. “Doing that was so important to me…It made me realize how his being a survivor made such an impact on my young adult life.

“It is very important to me to be involved in raising awareness for the next generation and my children, who are third generation, about the Holocaust and survivor stories.”

Co-chair Eliane Sandler hopes the conference shines a light on “modern genocide and immigration in America.”

Sandler has her own immigration story. Born in France in 1947 to two survivors, Gisela and the late Severyn Adamski, Sandler arrived in the U.S. in 1956 at the age of nine. Her family settled in Queens, New York.

“I grew up right after the war in Europe and then we moved to Israel, so I have a kind of immigrant perspective and a second-generation perspective. My parents and I learned English together. We became very assimilated, wanting to be Americans,” Sandler explained. “It was hard to get here, but once we arrived here I felt it was a welcoming place.”

She worries about immigrants arriving in America today.

“I want the conference to bring an awareness of who we are as a people today and build awareness about the causes of other people,” she says. “My mother who is 90 and totally arthritic, goes to schools and talks about [her experience] because she feels it makes a difference for the future. It is not about our story; it is about prevention of future genocides, especially in today’s environment.”

Sandler’s daughter, Shiri, will be the closing speaker at the conference. Shiri is managing director of the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda, which deals with the descendants of the Rwandan genocide. She is former national director of the Auschwitz Jewish Center of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. “She is going to bring the third generation into the conversation and give us some information on genocide,” Eliane said.

The co-chairs believe the conference has relevance to all people, and not only to descendants of the Holocaust, which is why it is open to the general public as well.

“As children of survivors,” Kornman said, “it is our responsibility to make sure that what happened isn’t forgotten and to tell it in a very personal way.”

Descendants of the Shoah Conference, at the University of Hartford, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. For information: (860) 470-5591, ctvoicesofhope.org.

CAP: Co-chairs of the Descendants of the Shoah Conference are from left to right, Estelle Kafer, Eliane Sandler and Sharone Kornman.

Facebook and Holocaust Denial

Click here to engage with the FB community: https://www.facebook.com/ClaimsConference/videos/1961734767181909/






Here’s what Facebook employees were saying about Holocaust denial … in 2009














Zuckerberg Clarifies Stance On Facebook Policy For Holocaust Deniers




Letter to Government of Poland

The Board of Directors of the Association of Holocaust Organizations today called upon the government of Poland to revoke its controversial law regarding Holocaust research and stated that amending the law to remove criminal prosecution while leaving open the possibility of civil procedures is not sufficient.

The law continues to place the burden of proof on Holocaust survivors, scholars and educators. This is not an acceptable solution and any attempt to inhibit historical research or threaten open expression on the Holocaust in Poland must be rejected.  Therefore the Board shares the concerns raised by institutions such as Yad Vashem, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, as well as experts such as Prof  Yehuda Bauer who have all pointed out that historical facts cannot be legislated. The AHO Board also urges Poland’s government to take immediate steps to counter the antisemitism that has erupted in the wake of the controversy surrounding the law.

The Association of Holocaust Organizations is an international network of over 370 organizations and individuals working for the advancement of Holocaust education, remembrance and research.

Call to document Genocide as over 120 victims get decent burial in Ruhango

Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti

Rwandans should comprehensively write about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi to ensure that the youth and the next future generations as well as the rest of the world get to understand what happened in the country 24 years ago.

The call was made on Sunday during a Genocide commemoration event at Kinazi memorial site in Ruhango District.

The site is home to over 60,000 remains of Genocide victims, most of who were exhumed from a mass grave codenamed ‘CND’. During the same event, 124 bodies were exhumed from nearby locations and given a decent burial at the memorial site.

CND was the name of the present-day Parliamentary Building in Kimihurura, Kigali which in 1994 hosted a 600-strong contingent of the then Rwanda Patriotic Army rebels who had been deployed in the capital to protect Rwanda Patriotic Front politicians who were supposed to join an inclusive transitional government under the Arusha peace talks.

The talks collapsed when the Genocide broke out in April 1994.

Mourners in Ruhango reflected on the gruesome massacres in the area as Interahamwe militiamen and Burundian refugees in Rwanda at the time killed and roasted body parts of Tutsi victims before dumping them in a mass grave.

At first, the Tutsis here tried to defend themselves against the militia who surrounded them at the then Ntongwe Commune, but they were eventually overcome and slaughtered.

Speaking at the event, the Minister for Local Government and Social Affairs, Francis Kaboneka, said that information on the Genocide should be at the disposal of the current and future generations.

“We need to document the history of how the Genocide was prepared and executed, not only in this place but across the country. And this history should not start from 1994 but years before,” said Kaboneka.

The minister urged survivors not to be kept captive by what they went through but soldier on with resilience.

“We all need to support survivors to overcome their grief,” he said.

Kaboneka said it was a pity that, 24 years later, Genocide survivors are still struggling to find and accord decent burial to their loved ones because some perpetrators have declined to reveal the whereabouts of the remains of their victims.

Mukanyandwi’s testimony

Odette Mukanyandwi, a mother of three from Gasabo District, was 14 years old when the Genocide took place.

“Since 1990 the signs were there, in my class they once asked us to stand up according to our ethnic groups and the teachers would mock Tutsi students. Long before the Genocide started we could see people fleeing and houses being set on fire,” she said.

“Before the Genocide started, militiamen often attacked us and we would spend nights in the bush and go to school the next morning. Several public meetings were also held where people were openly incited to kill the Tutsi,” she added.

“In 1994, we heard that the plane carrying Habyarimana had crashed and heavy gunfire ensued shortly after. We scampered for our dear lives looking for a place to hide; I ended up at Ntongwe Commune (head office) where thousands had gathered.

“I found so many people there, my mother and other relatives were also there with me, and my mother had lost her voice. We were hungry and thirsty and people were dying from their wounds,” she recalled.

“The militia attacked us and started reading out names, they surrounded the compound and others jumped inside, they started hacking us with machetes, I saw them kill my young brother, my mother and so many others,” she narrated.

“They hit me everywhere, including on the head, I fell unconscious while someone shoved an object inside my ear, they then threw me outside thinking I was dead.

“Hundreds of bodies lay all over the place and I heard militia leaders asking the Interahamwe to first clean the area because the smell was becoming unbearable before they could kill other people.

“They started taking bodies to the mass grave, one young girl came and told me that we needed to leave the area because the militia was planning to bury those who were in critical condition alive, we left but we soon met a group of men who stopped us and told us that they were going to turn us into their wives, but as they still argued about who would take who somehow we managed to slip away and escaped.

“As we headed back to our home area, we found that it was business as usual for some of the people we know, they were not being hunted. People were in the market, some were busy looting, while others mocked us that we had resurrected…but one Hutu woman was touched when she saw us and gave us clothing before we left the place.

“On our way, we met another group of militia who stopped us and asked us to sit down, many people came from nowhere and surrounded us, it became clear to us that were going to die, but suddenly word reached the militia that wanted to kill us that the RPA soldiers were around the corner, they left immediately and we survived.”

Holocaust Is Fading From Memory, Survey Finds

West Hartford Lawmakers Lead Support for Holocaust and Genocide Education Awareness Bill


March 15, 2018

A hearing was held Wednesday on Senate Bill 452, legislation that would require Holocaust and genocide education awareness to be included in the social studies curriculum.

Members of the West Hartford legislative delegation urged their colleagues to supportSenate Bill 452, which seeks to require Holocaust and genocide education awareness to be included in the social studies curriculum for public schools.

The legislation was introduced by the legislature’s Education Committee, headed by House Chairman State Rep. Andy Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, and Vice Chairwoman State Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford.

“Though countless Connecticut residents know personally about the terror and pain of the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, and the genocides in Cambodia, East Timor, Rwanda and Sudan, many young people know nothing of this history,” Fleischmann said. “In fact, incidents

of anti-Semitism and hate in our schools have doubled each of the last two years. Other incidents – including assaults, bomb threats at our Jewish Community Center and vandalism – have happened in our community and across Connecticut. It’s critical that all students learn about genocide, and about the steps we must take to reject bias and hatred, and embrace love and empathy for all people.”

“It’s past time to pass this bill to ensure that no student in our state is unaware of or can forget what can happen when a group of citizens is isolated and demonized,” Bye said.

The committee held a public hearing on the proposal Wednesday. During the public hearing, State Rep. Derek Slap, D-West Hartford, and students from Avon High School voiced the importance of including Holocaust and genocide awareness education in the social studies curriculum.

“We must never forget the victims of the Holocaust and genocide and we must make sure past is not prologue. We must stand-up to violence and intolerance – whenever and wherever it happens,” Slap said. “Teaching our students about the Holocaust and genocide is critical. They must understand what societies are capable of. Awareness and education will help prevent atrocities in the future and help honor the victims of the past.”

Supporters of the bill said teaching students about the Holocaust and genocides are critical to helping to prevent future atrocities, and to honoring victims of the past.

“We along with our educational system have the obligation to remember and teach about these past and still occurring events so that we can effect change in future generations’ perceptions of hate and intolerance,” said Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut Executive Director Michael Bloom.

“I believe it is imperative that all school districts in Connecticut include Holocaust and genocide studies in their social studies curriculum,” said Julia Shufro, a senior at Avon High School. “I think that it is very important for everyone in high school to learn about the Holocaust and other genocides because they illuminate the fact that hate crimes and intolerance can be targeted toward any group, that no one is immune, and that nobody should be treated differently because of his or her race, ethnicity, religion or belief.”

“If we want to remember the Holocaust and learn from it, providing students with every opportunity to grow and learn is essential. As more and more time grows between the horrors that occurred in Europe today, it becomes more and more important to equip students with the knowledge that could prevent another event of this kind. Students need to understand the consequences of hate and ignorance so that this generation can attempt to better the global community,” said Anna Szekeres, a junior at Avon High School.

“Students need to learn empathy. They need to understand that we have to remain vigilant, and we cannot allow genocides to pass without our knowledge. We cannot allow the victims to fade into history, or become part of another statistic. Students should be allowed the opportunity to recognize that these events are very human, and they should be allowed to


understand the perspectives of the victims and the oppressors. I believe that if students are given the chance to study this aspect of human nature, they may begin to understand what it takes to prevent such events from occurring again,” said Zoe Quinones, a junior at Avon High School.

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Video Testimony of Dr. Joseph Olzacki on the Holocaust and Genocide Education

Voices of Hope, along with the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut (JFACT), are working to create a statewide mandate that will require Holocaust and Genocide Education to be taught in Connecticut schools. On March 14th, 2018, there will be a public hearing at the State Capitol to discuss this issue. In his absence, Dr. Joseph Olzacki has recorded the below testimony on why this mandate is not only necessary, but paramount in preventing future genocides.

Watch video testimony from Dr. Olzacki here.