Friday, August 12, 2011


“I never worry about action, but only inaction.” Sir Winston Churchill

It is seldom that one sees in History a tragedy repeated the same day... centuries later.

And yet, this is what happened with the Ninth of Av in Jewish History. The month of Av is the fifth of the twelve months of the Jewish calendar and it usually happens in the month of August. Tisha B’Av is considered to be the saddest day in the Jewish calendar and is commemorated in Israel and abroad.

On that day, the First Temple which was built by King Solomon and had been the most important place in ancient Judaism until then, was destroyed by the Babylonians who sacked Jerusalem in 586 BCE. The Second Temple, which was built on the site of the First Temple and had been completed in 516 BCE, unfortunately during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE, was also destroyed. Thus, in an interval of 656 years, both Temples were destroyed on the same day, the Ninth of Av.

Sadly, those two tragedies were so meaningful that ancient rabbis chose that date, the Ninth of Av, to be a day of mourning for the Jewish people. That’s the origin of Tisha B’Av (the Hebrew word ‘tisha’ means ‘nine’.)

The Ninth of Av has also been the day when the Jews were expelled from England in 1290. And on that same day, in 1942, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella expelled the Jews from Spain.

In contemporary History, the Ninth of Av in 1940 (5700 in the Jewish calendar) Himmler presented his plan for the “Final Solution” to the Jewish ‘problem’ to the Nazi Party in Germany. Two years later, 1942/5702, the Nazis began deporting Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto.

It is noteworthy that, while Tisha B’Av begins in the Hebrew month of Av, the spirit of remembrance actually begins three weeks earlier, on the 17th of the month of Tammuz, because on that date in 70 CE, the Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem and spent the next three weeks pillaging the city until the Second Temple was burned on the Ninth of Av. For that reason, on the 17th of Tammuz, Jews fast.

During the three weeks prior to Tisha B’Av the Jewish people observe a period of mourning. The last nine days of that period are especially restrictive, as Jews are supposed to feel mournful. For instance, no weddings are permitted and Jews are not supposed to perform a series of prohibited activities such as cut their hair or shave, just as Jewish mourners used to do back in the ancient times and even nowadays also do when a person sits “shiva” during the seven-day period that follows the passing of a direct relative -and many other restrictions whose goal is to help people feel they are truly mourning. Thus, those “nine days” many Jews refrain from drinking wine, eating meat or participating in entertaining activities, such as going to movies, dancing or going to fancy dinners, etc.

This year, for Tisha B’Av, two important New York Jewish institutions are uniting forces to deliver a moving program to commemorate the ‘saddest day of the Jewish people:’ the Simon Wiesenthal Center arm in New York, the Museum of Tolerance, and the distinguished Young Leadership of Fifth Avenue Synagogue.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center was founded in November 1977 in Los Angeles, by Rabbi Marvin Hier, in honor of Simon Wiesenthal, as an international center for Holocaust remembrance, the defense of human rights -including fight against bigotry and antisemitism- and for the Jewish people. In 2002 the Simon Wiesenthal Center opened its New York educational arm, the Museum of Tolerance New York, whose mission is to provide interactive workshops, exhibits, and videos, so that individuals can explore issues of prejudice, diversity, tolerance, and cooperation in the workplace and in the community, “in the heart of Manhattan, [it] is a professional development multi-media training facility targeting educators, law enforcement officials, and state/local government practitioners.”

Under Rabbi Marvin Hier, “the Simon Wiesenthal Center has served as consultant to Steven Spielberg’s epic Schindler’s List and ABC Television’s miniseries adaptation of Herman Wouk’s novel, War and Remembrance, among others. Rabbi Hier is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.”

Thus, Rabbi Marvin Hier has become the quintessential element in safeguarding for eternity the work and mission of relentless Nazi-hunter and human rights advocate, Simon Wiesenthal whose memory is perpetrated as a symbol of endurance and resilience. While he became most famous for his greatest and meaningful 1959 capture of Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wiesenthal was also aware that the work yet to be done was enormous, as Germany’s “war criminal files contained more than 90,000 names, most of them of people who have never been tried...”

Once, Wiesenthal was asked why did he choose to be a Nazi-hunter. He answered: “You believe in G-d and life after death. I also believe. When we come to the other world and meet the millions of Jews who died in the camps and they ask us, “What have you done?,” there will be many answers. You will say, ‘I became a jeweler.’ Another will say, ‘I have smuggled coffee and American cigarettes,’ Another will say, ‘I built houses.’ But I will say, ‘I did not forget you’.”

Partner in this endeavor is New York’s foremost synagogue, Fifth Avenue Synagogue, whose spiritual leader, Rabbi Yacov Kermaier proudly acknowledges that “Fifth Avenue Synagogue has a long and distinguished history as one of the premier institutions of Torah and Tefilla (prayer) in America.” Rabbi Kermaier together with the synagogue’s Young Leadership Chair, Jacob Gold, have been instrumental in organizing this Film-event which will take place at the Barbara K. and Ira A. Lipmam Screening Room of the Museum of Tolerance, on the occasion of this year’s Tisha B’Av next Tuesday night.

There will be two film sessions with a rich and varied program that will include some historical gems, such as: Academy Award TM-winning documentary, that the Wiesenthal Center produced in 1981, “Genocide”, narrated by Elizabeth Taylor and the late Orson Welles, and which was introduced by Simon Wiesenthal. “Against the Tide,” narrated by Dustin Hoffman, “I have never forgotten you,” narrated by Nicole Kidman, among others.

So, yes, Tisha B’Av may be the saddest day every year in the life of the Jewish people, but that day also brings a message for the quest of justice, of hope and of light, and above everything an innermost will to stand up to evil and defend those who are weak and who need a compassionate and strong human being to stand by them and say ‘no’ to injustice.


Goodwill Ambassador Eliana Benador is a national and international global strategist and the former CEO and founder of Benador
Associates. You can find her at the Goodwill Ambassador or at her website, on Twitter, at her political page on Facebook and her business page on Facebook.

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