COVID Diary- Reflections from Our Advisory Board Member Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs

January 6, 2021

Every Day during the Corona crisis our Advisory Board Member Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs (NL) writes a diary, on request of the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam, which is published on the website of the NIW, the only Jewish Dutch Magazine. Rabbi Jacobs is the head of Inter Governmental Relationships at the Rabbinical Centre of Europe. We will be regularly publishing a selection of his informative, sometimes light hearted, but always wise pieces.
For our Dutch readers you can follow the diary every day at NIW home page: https://niw.nl
“This message comes from Wollongong, Australia where we have a small Jewish community.
I wanted to ask you if Hijman Jacobs (1843-1872) might be in your family line? His great-grandchild who was once a student at our local university (~ 1970) is told that his great-grandfather was a Rabbi in Amsterdam. ” Thus the email I received this morning from Wollongong-Australia.
Never heard of a Rabbi Jacobs from Amsterdam, but what is not may yet come. I do not mean that I have ambitions to become the rabbi of Amsterdam, but it could just be that I have discovered an ancestor whose existence I did not know. Maybe he was not a rabbi and was only called a rabbi because he was a teacher. I am certainly not a descendant in the direct line, but perhaps he was a cousin of my father and therefore a real Jacobs. And if it is even slightly correct, I should definitely share that with Claire as well. Claire, I hear you ask. Who is Claire?
Claire and I share the same great-grandparents Salomon Levie Jacobs and Froukje Jacobs-Leek, who both passed away about a hundred years ago. About ten years ago we stood together in the cemetery of the Jewish Community in Muiderberg. We look alike and according to my wife have the same facial features. I also think that we both have mixed feelings about Aletta Jacobs with whom we both have the same family relationship. Proud of her commitment to equal rights for women and the prevailing discrimination, but we both also have difficulty with certain parts of her struggle / life vision in the field of ethics.
Claire and I are both from the orthodox core of the Jewish community. My dear caring and overprotective father has always told me that there must be one more person alive from the Jacobs family. A great-niece named Claire, granddaughter of his Aunt Bella, his father’s sister. My grandfather Jacobs had a sister and three brothers. All murdered with children, children by marriage and grandchildren. A cousin, Sampe, had survived the war but lost his wife and child in one of the camps. He was the only member of Jacobs’s side at my parents’ wedding in 1948. Sampe, my father told me, was deeply depressed and remarried a woman from Manchester. A girl is born who is named Claire. Sampe dies shortly after birth. Claire’s mother remarries. With whom and where my father did not know. But I have not forgotten the name Claire.
About ten years ago I received a phone call from the Jewish Community of The Hague. A certain Claire is looking for her origins. She lives in Melbourne. I didn’t have to think long, took the phone and talked to Claire, my grand-niece, the only still alive Jacobs. She wanted to know who her grandparents had been and also details about her father. Her mother had been married to him for only a short time and, in fact, knew very little about him. Because my father was on the verge of dementia at the time, I told Claire that if she wanted to hear more details from my father about her grandfather and grandmother, she should come now. And so I met Claire a week later. That feeling was very special. Even now, when I think back, tears come to my eyes. My grandfather and her grandmother were brother and sister. After she met my father, we went to Muiderberg together and stood before the graves of Salomon Levie Jacobs and Froukje Jacobs-Leek, our joint great-grandparents. Claire was raised by her mother and second father. But she was not told that her stepfather was not her real father. That stepfather never distinguished between Claire and the children born later. Mother and stepfather did not want to burden her with the real father who was no longer there.
Whether that was ethically correct or incorrect is no longer relevant. So her mother and stepfather had decided with the best of intentions in the world. Two weeks before her chuppah wedding, they told her husband-to-be that Claire’s real father is no longer alive. He, the husband-to-be, wanted Claire to find out, too, but because of the potential emotional blow, they decided to wait until a week after the wedding. She heard it, absorbed it, processed it emotionally, but did nothing with it. She was just married, building a family, then children … and then, ten years ago, when the children had left home and she and her husband had the wealth to themselves, she wanted to know: “Who were my grandparents and who was my father? ”
I was able to find someone who knew her father very well. We found the graves of her father’s parents and we found each other. Actually, we are just distant relatives, two people who had never met each other before. But we are both descendants of the same great-grandparents, we live in their footsteps, are both known to be the only survivors of that large Jacobs family. We both thanked G-d for being allowed to stand there together in the cemetery of the Jewish Community of Amsterdam, because we realized that most of the graves in the Jewish cemeteries will never be visited by anyone, because there is no one left. And while I was close to closing my diary, I received an email invitation from Claire to the chuppah of one of her grandchildren on January 5th in Monroe New York.
And now that e-mail from Wollongong, Australia. Maybe another Jacobs will turn up after all: Hijman Jacobs. I’m waiting!

Additional Articles

Brussels mayor cleans memory stones with Antwerp survivor in the Holocaust Remembrance Day

The mayor of Brussels Philippe Close cleaned some pavement stones of the Belgian capital this Wednesday afternoon, April 27. They were not simple stones, though. They were “Stolpersteine”, known in English as stumbling stones: each engraved brass block is dedicated to the memory of a victim of the Nazi regime, usually placed in front of the victim’s former residence.

“These stones are very important for Brussels, because they are not only figures, they are names, they are families, children, men, women. They lived in this neighbourhood. And these pavements are very symbolic of the people who lived here,” said Close to Belga News Agency.

“We do it together with the European delegation of the Jewish community, but also throughout the territory of Brussels, with this symbolic act. It’s very important to show that in Brussels everybody has a place,” added the mayor.

In Brussels, the cleaning event was organized by the European Jewish Association (EJA) to commemorate the Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) that this year started Wednesday evening April 27 through Thursday April 28.

“We have to remember all those who did not come back from Auschwitz. And one of the manners to do it is the Stolpersteine that we clean today,” explained Régine Suchowolski-Sluszny, Belgian Holocaust survivor from Antwerp.

“Because a lot of people do not have a place where they are buried, because they burnt,” added Régine with emotion. “It has to go on living on everybody’s soul that these people were murdered for nothing. Only because they had a Jewish mother,” she said to Belga News Agency.

Gratitude to Belgians

According to Regine, who presides the Jewish Organization in Flanders (FJO) in Antwerp, the Belgian people saved about 5000 Jewish children from the nazi regime. “50% of the Jewish people living in Belgium were saved. If you compare it to Holland, there was not even 20%. So the Belgian people did a very good job and we have to be grateful for that.”

In her speech at the opening event at the Jewish Museum of Belgium, she reminded the Belgian Christian couple that helped her family to scape the nazis, loved her and took care of her until she could reunite with her parents. She was only two years and a half then.

Régine defends that people should stand up against all forms of hate, intolerance and anti-Semitism. “People have to denounce it and not accept what is going on today,” she said to Belga News Agency.

“The world has to remember what happened. And we see today, sadly enough, that other people are suffering again; it’s not the same, because we can’t compare the Shoah to anything else, but too many people are suffering today and people are forgetting too quickly even what happened one hundred years ago,” Regine remarked.

Shining memory

In total, 90.000 stones can be found in Europe, from Spain to Finland. They were conceived by the German artist Gunter Demnig in 1993 and today the initiative follows up the international student-led “Make Their Memory Shine” movement, aiming to clean all Stolpersteine in a “pro-active manner”, mixing commemoration, volunteering and education.

The Chairman of the EJA rabbi Menachem Margolim, reminded that the nazis forced Jewish people to clean the streets.

“Today we clean the stones of the streets to make the memory of those Jewish people shine,” he said.

In Berlin, the 93-year-old Holocaust survivor by the name of Emil Farkash testifies against the notorious Josef Schutz.

In Berlin, the 93-year-old Holocaust survivor by the name of Emil Farkash testifies against the notorious Josef Schutz. Mr. Schutz is a 100-year-old charged with complicity in the murder of 3,518 prisoners when he worked as a warden at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1942-1945.
The European Jewish Association applauds and admires the courage of Mr. Farkash in attending the trial of the charged individual.
Moreover, the EJA has extended their hand to offer any kind of assistance to Mr. Farkash. However, he politely declined and noted that he is receiving sufficient assistance from the German government. On behalf of the family, we would like to thank Adv. Thomas Walther and Dr. Efraim Zuroff for their support.
Once again, the EJA stands firm in its stance to seek out justice against criminals associated with the Holocaust.

Greetings for the Upcoming Rosh HaShanah by Prime Minister of Hungary, H.E. Mr. Viktor Orbán and by Ambassador of Hungary to Belgium and Luxembourg H.E Dr. Tamas Ivan Kovacs


Hitler's Prewar Speeches Fetch Thousands at Contentious Auction

Handwritten notes for speeches given by Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler have been sold at auction in Munich. Jewish groups had expressed concerns that they might serve as encouragement to neo-Nazis.
An auction house in Munich on Friday sold notes handwritten by Adolf Hitler for speeches he gave before World War II, despite criticism from representatives of the Jewish community.
The manuscripts were purchased by anonymous bidders, with all of them going for far more than their starting prices. The top price of €34,000 ($40,300) was reached by a nine-page document with notes for a speech to new military officers in Berlin in 1939, just eight months before World War II began.
The Hermann Historica auction house has defended the sale in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, saying that the notes were of historical significance and should be kept in a museum or given to researchers.
Vehement criticism
Ahead of the auction, representatives of the Jewish community criticized the sale of the documents, saying they could serve as welcome fodder to neo-Nazis at a time when anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic crimes are on the rise in Germany and Europe.
“I cannot get my head around the sheer irresponsibility and insensitivity, in such a febrile climate, of selling items such as the ramblings of the world’s biggest killer of Jews to the highest bidder,” Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the head of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association, said in a statement. “What auctions like this do is help legitimize Hitler enthusiasts who thrive on this sort of stuff.”
The article was published on DW.com

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