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 

 

Elected to IAJGS Board

August 2020,  For release: Upon receipt

Contact: Sandra Golden, Publicity Chair, IAJGS, publicity@iajgs2020.org

Perth resident elected to International Jewish Genealogy Board                 

Eli Rabinowitz, a Perth, Australia, resident,  was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) at its International Jewish Genealogy Conference, presented virtually on Aug. 12.  The Conference drew more than 2300 registrants from 28 countries.

Eli  has researched his family’s genealogy and associated Jewish cultural history for over 30 years. A South African-born Australian, Eli has travelled extensively, writing about Jewish life, travel and education on his website, Tangential Travel and Jewish Life. https://elirab.me 

 Eli writes and manages 87 Jewishgen KehilaLinks, and over 750 WordPress posts. His articles have appeared in numerous publications. Eli has lectured internationally: at educational institutions, commemorative events, at IAJGS and other conferences, and online platforms.

He established the Partisans’ Song Project, and was awarded a U.S. government cultural grant for his WE ARE HERE! Human Rights and Social Justice initiative, https://wah.foundation.

Eli has an Economics Honours degree from the University of Cape Town.

IAJGS is an umbrella organization of more than 91 Jewish genealogical organizations worldwide.  The IAJGS coordinates and organizes activities such as its annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy and provides a unified voice as the spokesperson on behalf of its members. The IAJGS’s vision is of a worldwide network of Jewish genealogical research organizations and partners working together as one coherent, effective and respected community, enabling people to succeed in researching Jewish ancestry and heritage. Find the IAJGS at: www.iajgs.org and like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/iajgsjewishgenealogy.  

                                                            

 

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

Plunge Saule Gymnazyum Tolerance Centre

Plungyan KehilaLInk

Home

Plunge, Lithuania

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

Plunge Saule Gymnazyum
With Gintautas Rimeikis, Yolanta Mazhukne and Danutė Serapinienė 

Tolerance Centre
The Ronald Harwood International Art Competition

Ronald Harwood 

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Harwood

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

                    

Gintautas Rimeikis and Yolanta Mazhukne

 

Yolanta Mazhukne, Gintautas Rimeikis and Danutė Serapinienė 
 

 

Building of Lost Shtetl Museum begins in Lithuania

SA Jewish Report

 
The construction of a new museum in Lithuania to commemorate Jewish life lost in the Holocaust began last week, after a ceremony attended by Lithuania’s top officials – including the country’s prime minister, Speaker of Parliament and foreign minister, as well as senior diplomats and Jewish leaders.
by TALI FEINBERG | Jul 05, 2018
 

Designed by the same Finnish company which designed the award-winning POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, the state-of-the-art museum, located in Šeduva – 175km north-west of Vilnius – will open in 2020.

The museum complex will include a sprawling Jewish cemetery, which was completely restored and opened in 2015, monuments at three separate sites of Holocaust mass executions and burials, and a symbolic sculpture in the middle of the town.

“It will tell the story of the life of what was once the largest European Litvak Jewish population living in shtetls,” according to the museum’s website. “Lifestyle, customs, religion and the social, professional and family life of the Jews of Šeduva will serve as the centrepiece of the museum exhibition.

“Museum visitors will be taught the tragedy of Šeduva’s Jewish history, which ended in three pits near the shtetl in the early days of World War II, concluding five centuries of the history of the Jews of Šeduva.”

Ex-South African educator Eli Rabinowitz, who now lives in Perth, attended the ceremony and spoke on behalf of the Litvak Diaspora, especially South African Jews. “Many Litvaks migrated to South Africa, aptly named the ‘goldene medina’,” he said. “Jewish life in the small South African country towns often mirrored that of the Litvak shtetl. We often heard stories from ‘der heim’, describing the rich Jewish cultural life throughout Lithuania, which had existed over many centuries.

“Those Litvaks who left Lithuania before the Holocaust were indeed lucky. More than 95% of the Lithuanian Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, a greater percentage than any other country,” said Rabinowitz.

“In the future, when we visit this museum, we will be able to access the past with a better understanding of history. We will view the collection of objects and artifacts, giving us insight into how our ancestors lived their cultural, religious, work and home lives. We will learn about their values from their daily lives and from the items they kept and used.

“The museum will showcase the richness and the importance of Litvak shtetl life of years gone by. It will also reflect on the Jewish world that was destroyed by the Holocaust.

“The museum will educate Lithuanians and visitors to Lithuania, and so provide an opportunity to learn from our history and strive for a better world.”

Rabinowitz said he thinks the museum is being built now – before, as politicians and historians have realised, this past is lost to history.

He emphasises that the location is important, as “our Litvak heritage stems from the shtetls in this geographical region in Lithuania – not the bigger cities of Vilnius or Kaunas”.

Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė said the laying of the cornerstone “heralds the reconstruction of an important part of Lithuanian history, closely interlinked with the history of Lithuania’s large Jewish community and its tragic fate”.

She added: “The Lost Shtetl Museum will bring back from oblivion the names and faces of many families, friends and neighbours, as well as their customs and traditions.”

Said Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius: “This unique museum will capture not only the memory of the Šeduva but also the Jewish communities of Lithuania as a whole.”

Source: www.sajr.co.za/news-and-articles/2018/07/05/building-of-lost-shtetl-museum-begins-in-lithuania