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November 26th, 2013
08:49 PM ET

Giving thanks for the miracle of survival

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Leon Gersten could not bear to watch “Schindler’s List,” the movie about Czech industrialist Oskar Schindler who saved 1,200 Jews from Nazi extermination camps. It was too painful for the Holocaust survivor, too close to reality.

But now, almost 70 years after his village in Poland was liberated by the Soviet army, Gersten is meeting the man who is the Oskar Schindler of his own life: Czeslaw Polziec.

Like Schindler, Polziec is Catholic. His family secretly sheltered Gersten in rural Poland for two years during World War II.

As though such a reunion between survivor and rescuer were not emotional enough, this one is taking place Wednesday on the eve of Hanukkah, which coincides this year with Thanksgiving. Two celebrations of gratitude.

FULL POST

- CNN Wire editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Faith Now • Hanukkah • Holocaust • Israel • Judaism • New York • Poland • Thanksgiving

September 4th, 2013
04:47 PM ET

Iranian president's surprising message to Jews

By Daniel Burke and Mitra Mobasherat, CNN

(CNN) - Marking a sharp shift from his Holocaust-denying predecessor, new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday appeared to wish "all Jews" a "blessed Rosh Hashanah" on his English-language Twitter account.

Rosh Hashanah, of course, is the Jewish celebration of the new year. As Rouhani mentions, it began Wednesday at sundown. The image in the tweet is reportedly taken from a synagogue in Tehran.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Foreign policy • Holidays • Holocaust • Iran • Iran • Judaism

Faith in the messenger
Elie Wiesel claps as U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the Holocaust Museum April 23, 2012 in Washington, DC.
April 29th, 2013
12:48 PM ET

Faith in the messenger

Editor’s Note: Today marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. It was Elie Wiesel’s idea to make this an institution of learning rather than a simple memorial. Michael Schulder, host of the "CNN Profiles" radio show, sat down with Wiesel to talk about a range of issues, including how a sense of humor survives in so many survivors. This story, though, is about faith.

By Michael Schulder, CNN

(CNN) - “They called him Moishe the Beadle, as if his entire life he had never had a surname.”

This is the opening line of the most widely read memoir of the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel’s "Night."

I had the opportunity to ask Wiesel about Moishe the Beadle recently when we sat down for an in-depth CNN Profile, which you can listen to here.

When Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize, the committee that chose him called him a messenger to mankind.

FULL POST

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Holocaust • Judaism

April 13th, 2013
02:38 PM ET

My Take: Nothing wrong with Nazi assignment

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) - School officials in Albany, New York, are racing to control the damage after a teacher at Albany High School gave students a persuasive writing assignment that challenged them to defend the proposition that “Jews are evil.”

After studying Nazi propaganda and rhetoric, sophomores in three English classes were instructed to imagine that their teacher was “a member of the government in Nazi Germany” and to prove that that they were “loyal to the Nazis.”

But this unidentified teacher is now caught up in a propaganda swirl of his or her own.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Culture wars • Education • Holocaust • Judaism • My Take • New York • Prejudice • United States

Recounting the nightmares of the Holocaust
January 28th, 2013
02:26 AM ET

Recounting the nightmares of the Holocaust

By Lauren Russell, CNN

Photographer Maciek Nabrdalik was visiting a Holocaust memorial and museum in Poland when he noticed an obituary posted for one of the survivors. The next day there was another one.

“At that moment I realized that we are the last generation who can approach them to talk and ask questions,” he said.

Since then, he has sat down with more than 40 former camp prisoners to help tell their stories for his ongoing project, “The Irreversible.”

FULL STORY
- A. Hawkins

Filed under: Holocaust

Documentary seeks to explain why Albanians saved Jews in Holocaust
Norman Gershman and Stu Huck discuss a portrait in a documentary about Albanians who rescued Jews during the Holocaust.
August 3rd, 2012
10:00 PM ET

Documentary seeks to explain why Albanians saved Jews in Holocaust

By Laura Koran, CNN

(CNN) – How many people would lay down their lives for a stranger?

It’s the question at the center of the new documentary “Besa: The Promise,” which premiered last weekend at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

The filmmakers’ answer: “Albanians would.”

During one of humanity’s darkest chapters, when millions of Jews, gays, communists and racial minorities were rounded up across Europe, many Albanians put up a fight to save complete strangers.

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Culture & Science • Faith Now • Holocaust • Islam • Judaism • Movies

With Holocaust book in Farsi, Iranian-American author plugs a historical hole
Dr. Ari Babaknia has written four volumes on the Holocaust in his native language, Farsi.
May 25th, 2012
04:07 PM ET

With Holocaust book in Farsi, Iranian-American author plugs a historical hole

By Kim Segal, CNN

(CNN) – When he first became interested in learning about the Holocaust in the 1990s, Dr. Ari Babaknia had trouble finding any literature on the subject written in his native tongue, Farsi.

The California-based physician wanted answers to basic questions: Where was the rest of the world as millions were exterminated? And when did the world learn what was happening?

“There’s plenty of books in English on this, and the Farsi-speaking people, I thought they’re not aware of this,” Babaknia says. “It’s something they should know about.”

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Books • Faith Now • Holocaust • Iran

My Take: 7 life lessons from a Holocaust survivor
Author Caroline Stoessinger, right, befriended Holocaust survivor Alice Herz-Sommers.
April 19th, 2012
01:27 PM ET

My Take: 7 life lessons from a Holocaust survivor

Editor's Note: Caroline Stoessinger, a concert pianist, is the author of "A Century of Wisdom: Lesson's From the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World's Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor."

By Caroline Stoessinger, Special to CNN

At age 108, Alice Herz-Sommers is the world's oldest survivor of the Holocaust. She was imprisoned at Theresienstadt, which was conceived by Hitler as a "model" concentration camp.

Herz-Sommers - Alice, as I know her - is a pianist. In between summer 1943 and the camp's liberation at the end of the war, she played more than 100 concerts at Theresienstadt. Most were solo recitals culled from memory from her extensive repertoire. She has survived for more than a century with a profound faith in humanity intact and a smile on her face.

As music is her kind of prayer, Alice still practices piano - Bach, Beethoven, Schubert – for three hours every day.

I got to know her in London, where she now lives, through mutual friends who are musicians, historians and Holocaust survivors. For Holocaust Remembrance Day, here are 7 lessons she has taught me:

FULL POST

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Holocaust • Judaism • My Take • Opinion

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me … a nose job appointment?
Orthodox rabbis have concluded that cosmetic surgery is religiously acceptable in many instances.
April 2nd, 2012
06:46 PM ET

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me … a nose job appointment?

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) – The problem for Orthodox Jewish singles, when it comes to meeting “the one,” might be right in front of them. Literally, as in staring them in the mirror.

So says a Miami plastic surgeon who recently announced surgery “scholarships” for single men and women in the Orthodox Jewish community.

Doing his part to help bring couples together, Dr. Michael Salzhauer launched this pro-bono campaign for his fellow Jews. Call it nose jobs for nuptials.

“A big nose worked for George Washington,” he said. “But there are standards of beauty that go across all cultures.” Like it or not, the stereotypical “Jewish nose” is a subject fraught with complex history.

FULL POST

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Ethics • Faith & Health • History • Holocaust • Judaism

March 9th, 2012
07:50 AM ET

Mormons crack down on proxy baptisms; whistleblower’s access blocked

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - In response to recent media reports that well-known Jewish Holocaust victims and slain Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl were baptized by proxy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is renewing and revamping efforts to crack down on the practice and, some believe, stop the attention.

The church said this week it had implemented a “new technological barrier” to prevent abuse of its massive genealogical database, parts of which have been used to carry out – as well as expose - proxy baptisms.

"The church is committed to preventing the misguided practice of submitting the names of Holocaust victims and prominent individuals for proxy baptism,” spokesman Michael Purdy said in a written statement.

FULL POST

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Faith Now • Holocaust • Judaism • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Utah

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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.

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