Re: [Cz-L] Judging Josef Zissels

From: Merle Kastner <>
Date: Wed, 02 Apr 2008 20:32:34 -0400
To: Miriam Taylor <>, 'Czernowitz Genealogy and History' <>
Reply-to: Merle Kastner <>

Dear Miriam,

I tend to agree with you.
Everything should be taken and examined in moderation and
we must allow people to express themselves and explain their
motives and actions before judging them.

Very best regards,
Merle Kastner

----- Original Message -----
From: "Miriam Taylor" <>
To: "'Czernowitz Genealogy and History'" <>
Cc: "anna lenchovska" <>
Sent: Wednesday, April 02, 2008 11:37 AM
Subject: [Cz-L] Judging Josef Zissels

> Like many other members of this list, I am very much against the total
> omission of the events of WW2 from the opening exhibition in the Jewish
> museum of Chernivtsi and I am in full sympathy with the pain expressed
> by some. I lived in Czernowitz during the war, I remember and am still
> adversely affected by what I experienced. My grandmother and many other
> relatives died in Transnistria and my parents' lives were for ever
> shattered by the events of 1940 -1945.
> I do not agree with Mr. Zissels decision, yet I think that we must
> resist the urge to smear his name and attribute vile motives to him.
> Like David Glynn and Bruce Reisch, I think that the controversy over
> building a community center at Babi-Yar is not sufficiently clear and
> we should not blindly assume that the majority of the Jewish leaders
> of the Ukraine were necessarily right. Majorities are often wrong.
> Looking for more information about Josef Zissels, I found the following
> article on the website <Cleveland Jewish> it is dated April 1,
> 2008
>> Many of those who stayed behind to build the secular organs of communal
>> life
>> fit a similar description: strong-willed intellectuals with Zionist
>> proclivities.
>> Josef Zissels, 61, a native of Chernovtzy, Ukraine, fits that bill as
>> well as
>> anyone.
>> "I'm a traditional/Masorti Jew and Zionist in a wider meaning of the
>> word," he
>> says. "The optimal formula is strong Israel and strong Diaspora."
>> He was a member of the human rights movement in Ukraine and the
>> Soviet-era
>> Jewish resistance. Imprisoned twice for his work, Zissels spent six years
>> as a
>> political prisoner in the Soviet Gulag. But when the time came to leave
>> Zissels, who spent decades fighting for the rights of Jews to emigrate
>> from
>> his native Ukraine, chose to stay.
>> Ironically his father has wanted to immigrate to Israel and Zissels now
>> has
>> many relatives there. Still he says he is fully satisfied with his life
>> and
>> activities in Ukraine in spite of a recent spike of xenophobia and
>> anti-Semitic attacks, and he has no plans to leave.
>> Zissels leads the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of
>> Ukraine, a nationwide umbrella group based in Kiev, and serves on the
>> board of
>> the European Jewish Congress.
>> Aware of his vital role within the community, Zissels sees his mission as
>> developing the Jewish community of Ukraine, which he says "will become
>> stable
>> in a generation."
>> "We have to restructure ourselves because what we were doing more than 20
>> years ago is no longer suitable today," he says.
>> For many who stayed behind, who were raised in an environment of
>> resistance
>> and left to revive an indigenous Jewish culture decimated by 80 years of
>> Soviet communism, the period brings bittersweet memories as marking the
>> end of
>> an era.
> The letter from Anna Lenchovska, gives the motives and plans of Mr.
> Zissels
> for the Jewish museum in the Jewish community building and the proposed
> Holocaust museum in what once was the prayer hall at the entrance to the
> cemetery.
> I suggest that we take Mr. Zissels at his word; let's agree to delay a
> complete and detailed account of the Holocaust as experienced by the Jews
> of
> Czernowitz and the Bukovina till there are funds to establish the other
> museum.
> At the same time, let's not allow the complete omission or mention of
> the holocaust from the present Jewish museum display. If three rooms are
> available for the exhibition, surely one wall, in one room, could be
> devoted
> to the sad statistics and any photographs of the effect of World War 2 on
> the Jewish community of Czernowitz.
> I replied to the letter by Ms. Lenchovska and these are excerpts from what
> I wrote:
>> ..there has to be some mention of the fate of the former Czernowitz
>> Jewish
>> community . One wall in one room, would be sufficient to present some
>> widely known facts and a few photographs.
>> ...I would like the Jewish community to be remembered for this
>> community's
>> contributions to the culture, Arts and social and economic advancement
>> of mankind in general and the good name and renown of the city
>> of Czernowitz in particular.
>> You might also mention in this exhibition, the names of former Jewish
>> residents of Czernowitz, who have and continue to bring respect
>> and honor to the city of their birth:
>> The poets Paul Celan, Rose Auslander and Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger,
>> sculptor Bernard Reder, singer Joseph Schmidt, scientist E. Chargaff,
>> film producer Andrew Halmay, author Aharon Appelfeld and philologist
>> Wolf Moskovich are some of them.
>> The fame of many of the above mentioned Jewish Czernowitzers,
>> is intimately associated with the events of the holocaust. Mentioning
>> these names and not mentioning the holocaust cannot be explained or
>> excused.
>> I hope Mr. Josef Zissels will consider my opinion and that of the other
>> former
>> Jews of Czernowitz and decide on a modest place in the planned exhibition
>> for
>> the events of 1940 - 1945.
> Please let's compromise,
> Mimi
> Miriam Reifer Taylor
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Received on 2008-04-03 00:32:34

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