Gerta Freeman

Gerta was born on October 8th, 1915 in Vienna and later moved to Prague where she would meet her future husband, Albert.  In 1937-38, discrimination against the Jews grew worse and Gerta immigrated to the United States with Albert’s sister as her sponsor.  Making her home in Washington D.C., she worked for the Herald Tribune, a job that would prove fortunate – a secretary at the newspaper became a sponsor for her mother’s immigration to the US.  Eventually, Gerta’s brother, Fred, along with Fred’s girlfriend and her own brother were able to come to the United States.

 

 “Anti-Semitism”

By Gerta Freeman

Austria is the pace of my birth
To me, the most beautiful place on earth
The snow covered alps, the Danube, the lakes
The Vienna pastries and chocolate cakes.
Something is very wrong there and you will find
It's the Austrians hateful and narrow mind.

 

That's all I will try to express in poetic shape. It's absolutely impossible to describe to you the terrible conditions in that country, long before they decided to do away with Jews and other second rate citizens by sending them into gas chambers to a horrible death.

We encountered their hatred from early on in life. To be a good successful student was difficult with anti-Semitic teachers. They simply would not pass us to next grade unless we were very well prepared with our studies.

When I had decided to become a language teacher and had passed my examination with excellent results, it was absolutely impossible to obtain employment in any of our middle schools. To earn a living I had to give private lessons and wore out my shoes getting from one student to the next. Many adults wanted to learn English in preparation of their emigration to either England or America. The desire was inevitable after Adolf Hitler had overrun our borders. He and his henchmen Goebbels and Goehring proclaimed daily that the Jews were the source of all evil. They had all the money in the world etc. They were a wonderful scapegoat and had to be eliminated once and for all.

We were forced to wear yellow armbands at all times to be recognized immediately; we were not permitted to sit on a park bench. Luckily, the only direct attack on me did not hurt me physically. A man sitting next to me in a bus turned to me and said in a loud voice, "I will not sit next to a Jewish sow." That was shortly before I left Austria for good. Not to mention that I had to go to the Gestapo office and ask for an exit permit. They gave me one under the condition never to come back. I gladly signed this piece of paper. As a good bye present they took my passport and added the name "Sarah" for my name so that the foreign country would be aware of my faith.

Arriving in Washington D.C. in 1938 we tried to find an apartment and were told that they do not rent to Jews.

We came a long way to find similar conditions here.



Be aware of my faith.

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"My Dear Boy” Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day)

Joanie Holzer Schirm is a retired CEO who, in many ways, represents the new face of retirement. She’s still learning, still growing, still active in her community, and still working. Only these days, Joanie is working on a passion project and winning awards like the Global Ebook Award for Best Biography and Book Trailer (for her first book, Adventurers Against Their Will). At the heart of her book series, including My Dear Boy, which was named a finalist in a Book of the Year contest, is a collection of WWII letters, documents, and objects that serve as witnesses to history. Known as the Holzer Collection for which Joanie serves as an archivist, the secret treasure trove preserved by her father, Dr. Oswald Holzer, tells a refugee story with powerful relevance for today. Classrooms across America and Europe feature lesson plans that accompany her books. Public exhibitions have highlighted Holzer Collection objects in Orlando, Frankfurt, and Prague. “My father gave me a lot throughout my life, but this unexpected gift is the most important—the gift of memory—the gift that became his legacy. His story empowered me to become a driving force for change – changing the world to appreciate the richness we gain from our diversity and to understand the perils of remaining silent when our neighbors are in trouble. From a place of profound sadness to a sanctuary of bright hope, I’ve learned that if we understand the past, it can guide us forward to a better world.” Please register and join us via zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZclcOiqqTgrHtGwzTBcsL16gbfGtvhP4LwG

Opening the Qur’an: Exploring Muslim Devotional Life

The first seven lines of the Qur’an, known as al-Fatiha, are possibly the most frequently recited verses of the Qur’an. This talk explores the importance of these lines in the lives of Muslims, incorporating calligraphy, theology, music, and theology. Prophet Muhammad said that all of the knowledge of the Qur’an is found in these verses. The ways in which Muslims have explored the depths of al-Fatiha allows us to have a glimpse at the breadth of Muslim devotional life. 

Hussein Rashid, PhD is a freelance academic, currently affiliated with several universities in New York City. He is a scholar of religion, focusing on Muslims and US popular culture. He is also the founder of islamicate, L3C, a consultancy focusing on religious literacy and cultural competency. He co-edited a book on Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel called Ms. Marvel’s America. He is currently co-editing a volume on Islam and Popular Culture, and another volume on Islam in North America. He is also co-authoring a cultural history of Muslims in America. His current projects include an independent film, a documentary, and a museum project on religion and jazz. He worked with the Children’s Museum of Manhattan as a content expert on their exhibit “America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far.” You can find out more at http://www.husseinrashid.com

Please register and join us via zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAqceGtrjooEtezb56W-_LCfS1nqqYuSfb6

A Conversation: White Nationalism, Antisemitism, and Racism

A conversation with Claudia Setzer, Ph.D., Professor of Religious Studies, and Eric Ward, Executive Director of Western States Center about White Nationalism, Antisemitism, and Racism.

Please register for the event and join us via zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYrc-uqqDkrEtxA4ghg5zx2WqCg3c0RJGik

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