Sir Ronald Harwood: Obit by Abel Levitt

Plunge, Lithuania

Sept 2020: planted by Eugenijus Bunka at Litvakland, Plateliai

Sir Ronald Harwood 

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Harwood

The Ronald Harwood International Art Competition
 

The Tolerance Centre

More artwork to follow….

Abel Levitt on the passing of Sir Ronald Harwood from natural causes at his home in Sussex on 8 September 2020, at age 85.

Abel:

I would like to write specifically about Ronald’s connection to Plungyan in Lithuania and his visit there with his wife Natasha in 2005.

I grew up with Ronnie Horwitz. We started school at the Kings Road Primary School in 1941, in the same class of sub A. We completed our schooling at Sea Point Boys’ High in 1951. Throughout our school lives we were in the same class, at Kings Road, at Sea Point Junior and at Sea Point Boys’ High. We lived close to one another, Ronnie in Victoria Road Bantry Bay, and, I, 150 yards away in Brompton Avenue. We were in the Cubs and Scouts together at the 10th Green and Sea Point, We played tennis together, watched cricket at Newlands together, competed with one another at the Eisteddfods. 

At school, Ronnie took the lead in the school plays. He was outstanding. After we had finished writing our matric exams, Ronnie left for London, to study Dramatic Art, dropped out of the Royal Academy due to financial difficulties, and the rest, as they say, is history. A career of writing and leadership. We maintained a loose relationship, the occasional phone call when I was in London, but we did spend a day together after watching his acclaimed play “Taking Sides”.

It was whilst reading his novel “HOME” that I learned for the first time that Ronald’s father Isaac Horwitz had emigrated from Lithuania. In half a lifetime, our fathers’ ancestry was not a subject of discussion. Glenda and my journey to Lithuania had already began, when I read Ronnie’s book “Home” and discovered that both of our fathers were from Plungyan. I called Ronnie. “What about you and Natasha joining us in a trip to our shtetl Plungyan” I asked. The reply was immediate. And the date 25th May agreed upon, with our guide Regina to be our leader.

The meeting at the airport was emotional. Ronnie had recently been awarded the Oscar for writing the screenplay of what was to become a Holocaust Classic “The Pianist”. And here he was, with his dear wife Natasha, in Lithuania.

Our journey to Plungyan was via Kovno where we visited Eugenijus Bunka, the son of the “Last Jew in Plungyan”, and our friend and partner in our Plungyan ventures. Eugenijus was in hospital, recovering from an operation. He would not be with us on the upcoming welcome to the Oscar winner.

 Upon our arrival in the town our first stop was at the apartment of Yacovas Bunka. During the few years of Lithuanian independence from the Soviet occupation, Yacovas Bunka had welcomed some hundreds of Plungyaner Jews. Few would have been of the international stature of the writer, playwright, literary giant and Oscar winner as Ronald Harwood. There was an immediate warm relationship although Bunka spoke no English and Ronald did not understand Yiddish.

The following morning we proceeded to the mass graves, where 1800 Plungyan Jews had been murdered by the Germans and their Lithuanian Collaborators in July 1941. The mass graves in Plungyan are special .The acclaimed sculptor Bunka, together with his Lithuanian sculptor friends had carved the sculptures which stand as sentinels overlooking the mass graves. These mass graves in the Kausenai Forest have been described by some as the most impressive in the whole of Eastern Europe. Ronald did not have family who had remained in Lithuania, but he walked around, silent, as he absorbed the sanctity of the moment. He was profoundly moved. The photo of Ronald sitting quietly on a bench describes the emotion of the visit.

Our next visit was to the Saules Gymnasium. The headmaster Jouzas Milacius welcomed his important guests, the Harwood’s, in one of the multiple European languages that he spoke, but not a word of English. Jouzas is a true friend of ours, a man who was directly helpful when we proposed the establishment of a Tolerance Education Centre in his school.  The pupils were assembled in the hall, waiting for the guests to arrive. They were well prepared. Every class had seen the film, “The Pianist”, and had lessons about the Warsaw ghetto uprising. And here they were, seated and waiting to hear from Ronald. The students were riveted by Ronald’s charm and dynamic personality.

The questions were intelligent. These children had as a teacher Danute Serapiniene, a committed and sincere lady who since 1995 had been teaching children about the Holocaust and about the Jews who lived in their town Plunge.

In the evening there was an event at the local Ogynski Palace where Ronald addressed the intellectuals of the town, relating his experiences of working in Poland with the director of the film Roman Polansky. Again the audience interacted with his engaging and charismatic personality and interacted with many questions about the film.

The following morning was a scheduled meeting with the mayor of Plunge, all arranged by the school? We sat in the mayor’s office, listening to the usual welcome and niceties.

And then Ronald Harwood spoke. I remember his words very clearly. “Mr. Mayor, I know that you have difficulties with budgets. I appeal to you, whatever you do don’t reduce the budgets for culture. To do so will be to the detriment of your society.”

As we walked down the stairs at the conclusion of the meeting, Glenda looked at me, and I looked back at her. We were both thinking of the very same thing. That was to create an art competition, called “The Ronald Harwood Holocaust Art competition“. Ronald’s words to the mayor of Plunge had inspired us and since that time the Ronald Harwood Art Competition has grown from a local event, to a regional event and to a national event. The word “Art” has become “Arts” as all forms of art are part of the competition today. Painting, drawing, sculpture, drama, music and writing.

We were present at the 10th anniversary of the Ronald Harwood Arts Competition, held in the Plunge Town Hall. There was an exhibition of prize-winning art works from previous years and entries from throughout Lithuania. The International School in Vilnius arrived with two full busloads of children of all ages who took part in a musical play, in Lithuanian, English and Yiddish with

Vilna and the Holocaust as the theme.

On Friday night at our hotel in the nearby resort of Plateliai we had a traditional Friday night dinner with candle lighting and Kiddush. Our guests included teachers from the district.

Before leaving Plungyan we had a special visit to make. Living in the centre of the town was Kazys Vitkevicius and his wife. As a 14year old in 1941 Kazys had helped his mother to save Jewish girls. He did this by digging pits in which he hid the girls covered by branches, and bringing them food. Both his mother and Kazys were honoured by Yad Vashem and became Righteous among the Nations. Ronald and Natasha were visibly moved at the experience of meeting this special man.

And so back to Vilnius where Ronald addressed the students at the Sholem Aleichem Jewish Day School. Again, the subject was the movie The Pianist and once more the children at the school were enthralled by the charm and competence of the writer of the script of the film

The Harwoods returned to their home in London after an experience which Ronald told me was something beyond his expectations.

 For us, that experience of being with my lifelong friend in the land of the birth of our fathers, to witness the appreciation of the young people of the artistry of Ronald Harwood inspired us to talk about Tolerance Education and to display the winning art works from the Ronald Harwood competition in countries around the world, including South Africa and Lithuania.

Abel Levitt 

Eli with Glenda & Abel Levitt in Ra’anana, Israel – July 2017

———————

Sea Point High School 

Sea Point High School – Wikipedia

Sea Point High School, formerly Sea Point Boys High School, is a co-educational public high school in Main Road, Sea Point, Cape Town, South Africa. The school was established on 21 April 1884. In 1925, the senior grades were separated from the junior grades. In 1989, the school merged with Ellerslie Girls’ High School after becoming co-educational.

Sea Point Boys connected to Plunyan

  • Sir Ronald Harwood (Horwitz)
  • Sir Antony Sher
  • Abel Levitt
  • Eli Rabinowitz (KehilaLink manager)

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_Point_High_School

The Last Jew in Plunge

Last Jew

Source: kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/plunge/Last_Jew.html

Source: kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/plunge/Home.html

 

Gintautas Rimeikis and Yolanta Mazhukne

   

Yolanta Mazhukne, Gintautas Rimeikis and Danutė Serapinienė 

With Gintautas Rimeikis, Yolanta Mazhukne and Danutė Serapinienė 

 

They Are Returning – A Year On!

Atzalynas Gimnazija, Kedainiai Lithuania

Reflecting back to  June 2019

Rabbi Dan Fink

Bobbie Lamont

Eli Rabinowitz 

13 June 2019

VIDEO OF OUR EVENT IN LITHUANIA

They Are Returning

‘’TILTAI-BRIDGES-בריקן’’

For video, click here:

Source: www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZXBEuPfeFc

Rabbi Dan Fink handing out gifts to students
With Israeli Ambassador to Lithuania, Amir Maimon
Photos of our group – descendants of Keidaners

At the school

At the cemetery

At the Holocaust site

Vale Simonas Dovidavicius. 

Standing between Laima Ardaviciene and me in Kėdainiai, Lithuania on 15 June this year. Simon passed away last week and was laid to rest on the 18th December 2019. 

With Rimantas Zirgulis

 

We Are Here – Now!

How an idea has progressed around the globe!

From: UK Jewish Telegraph Manchester – May 2018

To: Philadephia – April 2020

Highlights

Australia 2019

WE ARE HERE! For Upstanders

For Upstanders – Founded by Eli Rabinowitz

Source: wah.foundation

Melbourne, Australia
The William Cooper Legacy

The Ark Centre Melbourne
Elder Shane & Rabbi Gabi
Barbara Miller & Federal Minister Ken Wyatt
With Viv Parry
Maroopna VIC, Australia 2019
Uncle Boydie, Maroopna VIC
London 2019 – World ORT
With Shoshana, Daniel & Edwin

Johannesburg  – ORT SA
Marcelle & Ariella
The Together Plan 2019
With Debra Brunner & Michael Mail in London
Birzh Lithuania 2019
Benny Rabinowitz
Aldone Shapiro & Emanuelis Zingeris MP at Birzh commemoration
Ambassadors to Lithuania
Kedainiai, Lithuania 2019
Keidaner descendants weekend at cemetery with Laima Ardaviciene 
Kedainiai Students

Israel 2019
Group at Yad Vashem

Belarus 2019

The welcome committee to Novogrudok – Tamara & Olga 
Nance Adler, Aron Bell- the last of the original Bielski with wife Henryka
Jerusalem Forest, Naliboki
IAJGS Conference in Cleveland 2019
With Saul Issroff, Roy Ogus & Henry Blumberg – all ex SA
South Africa

King David Victory Park, South Africa
Zog Nit Keynmol on Yom Hashoah 2020

Zog Nit Keynmol on Yom Hashoah 2020

South Africa  – Footage from SAJBD Facebook Live Stream with thanks

Source: youtu.be/ab_o311MR6Y

Choir Performances | WE ARE HERE!

Choir Performances | WE ARE HERE!

At Perth Modern School at Kristallnacht Commemoration on 10 November 2019 The joint choir of Ellenbrook Secondary College and Carmel High School The World Premiere performance at Ellenbrook Secondary

Source: wah.foundation/program/

Audience at Perth Modern School

 

Sammy Marks & Heiny Ellert

Two men who came from the same town of Neishtot-Tavrig  in Lithuania

 
Sammy Marks square in Pretoria is one of the best known landmarks in South Africa’s capital city, but how many people actually know who Sammy Marks was?
 

The interesting history of Sammy Marks on Simcha TV (South Africa SABC) with Prof Richard Mendelsohn (ret) UCT History Dept.

Simcha TV

Simcha is SABC 2’s Jewish Magazine programme aimed at allowing Jews to celebrate their life of faith and culture and offering others an opportunity to learn about Judaism.
 
KehilaLink

Naumiestis, Lithuania

Source: kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Naumiestis/Home.html

This town in Lithuania has over time been known as eleven different names!
 
Heiny Ellert
 
Another son of this town is Heiny Ellert, who lives in Perth Australia
 
Heiny’s  story is also on the above KehilaLink
 
Heiny Ellert’s Testimony

Heiny Ellert’s Testimony

Heiny Ellert, a Lithuanian Holocaust survivor, tells his story to Eli Rabinowitz. Accompanying him is his wife Toby, also from Lithuania, but who escaped to …

Source: youtu.be/118HN2_NYHs

His photebook is also on the KehilaLink:
Photo book

 

Yom Hashoah – The Partisans’ Song Legacy

Commencing tonight, on 20 April 2020, and continuing tomorrow, on the 21st, corresponding to the 27th day of Nisan, the State of Israel and many Jews around the globe, commemorate the six million Jews who perished in the  Holocaust, as well as the heroism of survivors, and Jewish Partisans and rescuers.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and global lockdown, regular ceremonies will not be held.

We have compiled this YouTube highlights video to give you a perspective of why the the Partisans’ Song is so integral to a meaningful commemoration:

Educators and students are welcome to download a functional powerpoint presentation (1.8gb) that matches this video:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/18g67tFpg0YpKtAp2dtSX1J1CyUTOsVeQ/view?usp=sharing

I can also run an online ZOOM presentation for your school or organisation.   Please contact me at  eli@elirab.com to arrange this. There is no charge for this or the accompanying lesson plans and films.

Here is a pdf of the List of Slides on my presentation:

A List of Slides

 

Here is more information for you:

Yom Hazikaron laShoah ve-laG’vurah or Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In Israel, flags are lowered to half-mast, there is no public entertainment; ceremonies are held, and a siren at 10:00 signals the start of two minutes of silence.

The ceremonies held, usually conclude with Zog Nit Keynmol, the Partisans’ Song and Hatikvah.

 

Zog nit keyn mol” (Never Say; Yiddish: זאָג ניט קיין מאָל‎, [zɔg nit kɛjn mɔl]) or “Partizaner lid” (Partisan Song) is a Yiddish song considered one of the chief anthems of the Holocaust survivors and is sung in memorial services around the world.

The lyrics of the song were written in 1943 by Hirsh Glick, a young Jewish inmate of the Vilna Ghetto. The title means “Never Say”, and derives from the first line of the song. Glick’s lyrics were set to music from a pre-war Soviet song written by Pokrass brothers, Dmitri and Daniel, “Терская походная” (Terek Cossacks’ March Song), also known as “То не тучи – грозовые облака” (Those aren’t clouds but thunderclouds), originally from the 1937 film I, Son of Working People (story by Valentin Kataev).

Glick was inspired to write the song by news of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. During World War II, “Zog nit keyn mol” was adopted by a number of Jewish partisan groups operating in Eastern Europe. It became a symbol of resistance against Nazi Germany‘s persecution of the Jews and the Holocaust.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

For more information on the WE ARE HERE! Foundation, a not for profit organisation, please visit:

WE ARE HERE! For Upstanders

WE ARE HERE! For Upstanders

For Upstanders – Founded by Eli Rabinowitz

Source: wah.foundation

 

WE ARE HERE! at SA Friends of Beth Hatefutsoth

  

On Friday 13 March 2020, the South African Friends of Beth Hatefutsoth will be hosting a presentation by Eli Rabinowitz, from Perth.

Eli, who is the founder of the education project the We Are Here Foundation, will be giving a talk accompanied by video footage about the programme for youth across the globe. The foundation focuses on the importance of educating Jewish youth about the Jewish partisans during the World War II. He will be giving an update on the success of this project, which is funded by the US government.

The project which started at schools in Australia is now functioning in Belarus, Lithuania, Israel and the USA.  Communities across the globe have been taught to sing the famous Partisans Song (Shir HaPartizanim).

His message is loud and clear: WE MUST NEVER FORGET!

If you would like to attend please email us at museum@beyachad.co.za

For more information please visit the website:  https://wah.foundation

WE ARE HERE! An Education Program That Inspires Upstanders

 

With Barbara Miller and Ken Wyatt, Federal Minister 2019

With Vince Connelly MP 2020

Kristallnacht Cantata Melbourne – World Premiere 2019

With Benny Rabinowitz in Birzh, Lithuania 2019

With Ambassadors of of China, Israel and Japan in Birzh, Lithuania 2019

Ground Turning at Lost Shtetl Museum, Seduva Lithuania

With Finnish, UK and US Ambassadors in Lithuania 2018

Yad Vashem, Jerusalem 2019

With Ian Stein and Dimitri Coutras at Sea Point School in 2019

At Beyachad meeting in 2019

Vale Simonas Dovidavicius

Vale Simonas Dovidavicius. 

Standing between Laima Ardaviciene and me in Kėdainiai, Lithuania on 15 June this year. Simon passed away last week and was laid to rest on the 18th December 2019. 

With Rimantas Zirgulis

In Kaunas at Sugihara House on 11 June 2019

Simon was the Executive Director of the Sugihara Foundation in Kaunas.

Long Life to his family, and may his memory be for a blessing.

My video of Simonas from 2015

Sugihara

Sugihara

By Simon Davidovich

Source: youtu.be/VWCW4H47vlQ

A previous post:

Sugihara House Museum

Sugihara House Museum

My second visit to the Museum, but first time meeting with Simon Davidovich, director of the Museum and Jewish tour guide. Also visiting the Museum were Richard Freedman of the Holocaust Centr…

Source: elirab.me/sugihara-house-museum/

My first visit:

Chiune Sugihara And His Legacy

Chiune Sugihara And His Legacy

This post is in honour of Chiune Sugihara. Contents 1. A profile of Sugihara 2. Photos of  my visit to the Sugihara Museum in Kaunas, Lithuania in May this year 3. Nine Forth, Kaunas. May 2012 4. T…

Source: elirab.me/chiune-sugihara-and-his-legacy/