Remembering Wojciech Pszoniak

Wojciech Pszoniak (1942-2020) – Photo by Ralf Lotys, via Wikimedia Commons

With gratitude, I remember Wojciech Pszoniak, an extraordinary Polish actor. In a masterful performance, Pszoniak brought Janusz Korczak to life in the beautiful film biography of the same name. A review of Korczak appeared in this space in July. He and director Andrzej Wajda worked together to create magic. Wajda died in 2016. Information in English is difficult to come by; the Polish website Culture.pl has a section devoted to him. His talent surely deserves broader recognition.

The Bystander’s Choice: A Virtual Program You Won’t Want to Stand By

The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.
—Elie Wiesel

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
—Edmund Burke

The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.
—Albert Einstein

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
—Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On Sunday, October 18, 4:00 to 5:00 p.m., the Sousa Mendes Foundation held an outstanding online forum to explore indifference in the face of evil. “If you are a bystander and witness a crime, should intervention to prevent that crime be a legal obligation? Or is moral responsibility enough?” Leading the discussion will be Amos Guiora, a law professor and the son of Holocaust survivors. According to the event description, “[he] argues provocatively and controversially that we must make the obligation to intervene the law, and thus non-intervention a crime.” Joining him will be two Holocaust historians: Dr. Victoria Barnett, formerly of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Dr. Mordecai Paldiel, formerly of Yad Vashem.

Just this week, a New York Times editorial opined that Rod Rosenstein, the former Deputy Attorney General, is just as guilty as the more obvious enablers of the Trump Administration, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and William Barr. “So Rosenstein is not a caricature of a villain, necessarily. You might even say he’s a man of a rather banal morality,” argues Jennifer Senior, the author of the piece. “Courageous civil servants … [are] our best defense against tyranny, against autocracy, against government-perpetrated crimes.” Adds Ms. Senior: “Yet, when it was Rosenstein’s turn, he did nothing to stop government-orchestrated cruelty. Instead, he simply did his job.”

If you missed this event, you can view the recording on YouTube!

Impassioned Webinar Addressed Anti-Racism from a Black Jewish Perspective

3GNY and 3GDC are organizations that provide a platform for third-generation Holocaust survivors to keep the stories of their grandparents alive. By sharing the histories of anti-Semitism of the past, they confront all forms of bigotry present today. More about these important groups will appear in a later article in this space.

Over the summer, the groups led an anti-Racism workshop. By being aware of our own biases, we are better equipped to confront systemic racism. The organizations continue their anti-racism outreach with a new webinar. Yehuda Webster, a Black Jew originally from Guyana, on Thursday, October 15, gave an impassioned speech. According to the organizers, “As a Jew of color, Yehudah will work within a Jewish framework to lead us through an interactive, discovery-based workshop that calls upon self-care and human empathy to combat racism.” As is true among people with disabilities, those who directly experience life are best able to tell about it.

“As a Jew of Color, I Need More People in My Community to Speak Up,” says Yehudah. “Now more than ever, we need to be attentive to the dynamics of race and biases.” Yehudah used the excellent materials of Facing History and Ourselves, an advocacy organization that provides highly regarded educational materials. He opened his powerful October 15 workshop asking, “How do we lead an anti-racist life? It’s not a question of whether there is racism, but what we are going to do about it.” With that, he said, “Now more than ever, we need to be attentive to the dynamics of race and biases.” He rapped on his “mama’s mama.” He was referring to strong women who had an inter-generational impact. “They are the models of anti-racism,” he said.

Yehudah had the participants to discuss in groups of three and four examine a quotation:

I love my daughters more than my nieces,
my nieces more than my cousins,
my cousins more than my neighbors.
But that doesn’t mean that we detest our neighbors.

They pondered the following questions:

  • What is this person’s vision of community?
  • In what ways does this vision of community make sense?
  • Does this vision make you at all uncomfortable? Why or why not?  
  • Is collective liberation from all forms of oppressive suffering achievable with this model of community?

Yehudah revealed that the speaker was, in fact, Jean-Marie Le Pen, an avowed anti-Semite and racist. In the end, we must regard the person in the fourth circle in the Universe of Obligation, that “neighbor,” as an individual with feelings.

When we see a black person, it is an act of micro-aggression to cross to the other side of the street. We must do more, a lot more. We must be kind and civil. Greet the person, that “neighbor,” with a sincere smile. That, he said is the beginning of being an anti-racist.

Yehudah is a tutor with the B’nai Mitzvah Campaign. He also works with Jews for Economic and Racial Justice, a group “advancing systemic changes that result in concrete improvements in people’s everyday lives.” According to the group’s website, “We are inspired by Jewish tradition to fight for a sustainable world with an equitable distribution of economic and cultural resources and political power,” and continues with, “We believe that Jews have a vital role to play in this movement. The future we hope for depends on Jews forging deep and lasting ties with our partners in struggle.”

Registration is free, but donations of any amount are encouraged. For those unable to attend, the webinar will hopefully be recorded for later viewing. This promises to be a most worthwhile and extremely valuable event!

For Girls Everywhere Who Dream Big

A black-and-white photo shows Fearless Girl, a bronze statue of a little girl looking up with confidence. She is adorned with the white lace collar of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
State Street Global Advisors created this brilliant full-page ad to honor Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and all she did for girls and women. Fearless Girl is a statue by sculptor Kristen Visbal and was commissioned by State Street.

October 11 is a big day for little girls across the globe. The theme for the International Day of the Girl this year is “My voice, our equal future.” UN Women states that the day “reimagines a better world inspired and led by adolescent girls, as part of the global Generation Equality movement.”

The Medium recently profiled eight girls around the world who are leaders, advocates in making the world better for all, especially the children of today. These are “Girls to know: The next generation is already leading the way.” They include the following:

  • Julieta Martinez, Chile. The founder of the Tremendas Collaborative Platform, Julieta is a climate and gender equity activist.
  • Latifatou Compaoré, Burkina Faso. She is working to demanding an end to Female Genital Mutilation.
  • Greta Thunberg, Sweden. She is the person behind the global school strike for climate action, a movement that has attracted teens all over the world.
  • Samira Mehta, United States. This extraordinary 11-year-old founded Coderbunnyz and Codermindz, board games that introduce children to programming and artificial intelligence.
  • Millie Bobby Brown, United Kingdom. A leading actor in the series Stranger Things, Millie is also a UNICEF Goodwill Amabassador.
  • Neha, Nepal. Growing up in a slum in her nation’s capital, Kathmandu, Neha is a girls’ rights and gender equality activist, with a show to end sexual exploitation of girls.
  • Jakomba Jabbie, The Gambia. She works to advance the education of girls in her country, also encouraging them to embark on careers in the sciences.
  • Sofia Scarlat, Romania. The founder of Girl Up, an organization for teenagers seeking to prevent domestic and sexual violence, as well as human trafficking. 

Two of My Heroes: Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg

Malala spoke with Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex. Meghan has devoted her live to the education of girls worldwide. Harry is focusing on climate change. And the two are interconnected. They discussed “the barriers preventing 130 million girls from going to school and why it’s essential that we champion every girl’s right to learn.” The Malala Fund “breaks down the barriers preventing more than 130 million girls around the world from going to school.”

Greta Thunberg earned Time Magazine’s coveted Person of the Year; which honored her in a beautiful article. “We can’t just continue living as if there was no tomorrow, because there is a tomorrow,” she says. Though her actions have inspired teens across the globe to start school climate strikes in their countries, Greta says. She is dedicated and she is humble. “I am not the leader the face of the climate movement,” she says. “I am just one of many faces.”

 

Girls like Greta are advocating for the rights of girls everywhere, so that the girls of the future will be able to change the world.