As things began to turn in Germany in the 1930s, both sets of my grandparents made the brave decision to leave behind their homes and all they knew to start anew in America. This past summer, as part of the Federation mission to Berlin and Budapest, I was the first member of my family to travel back to Germany.
In Berlin, I felt sadness at the unfathomable hatred and brutality that occurred in the not-so-distant past. I was also comforted to see Germans and Germany are accepting responsibility for their past and how they are living with that history. With a population of 175,000 Jews, many that were refugees from the former Soviet Union, Germany is now one of the fastest growing Jewish communities in the world –an outcome I suspect Hitler did not anticipate.
During our MEGA event on March 7, we are welcoming actor, producer, director and best-selling author Henry Winkler. Like my family, his parents emigrated from Berlin in 1939, a decision that likely saved their lives. From his iconic role on “Happy Days,” to his current Emmy-award winning role on “Barry,” Winkler has thrived.
In addition to the keynote by Winkler, violins from the Holocaust will play musical selections from Jewish Broadway and film at MEGA. Each violin has its own unique and inspiring story. They are part of “Violins of Hope,” a community collaboration of music, education and exhibition that educates both young and old about the Holocaust in a deeply personal and emotional way.
I am pleased that our Federation helped bring “Violins of Hope” to our community and that we are recognizing one of the women who, with Rachel Hoffer, worked tirelessly to bring it to Greater Phoenix, Julee Landau Shahon. At MEGA, she will receive our highest recognition, the Medal of Honor.
Like our Jewish community, our pasts and presents weave together, often in ways we do not even see. But, together we are stronger. I invite you to attend MEGA and hear about the work Federation is doing on behalf of Jews in need here, in Israel and around the world. I also invite you to attend the amazing events surrounding the “Violins of Hope” this month and next, for this is truly a season of remembrance and hope.
Marty Haberer is CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix