Tag Archives: Holocaust

Jew of the Week: Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are

Maurice Bernard Sendak (1928-2012) was born in Brooklyn to Polish-Jewish immigrants. He fell in love with books during a lengthy childhood illness, and after watching Disney’s Fantasia at age 12, decided to become an illustrator. Skipping college, Sendak first did illustrations for toy store windows before having his art published in a textbook. He then devoted himself to illustrating children’s books, including many Jewish themed ones like Good Shabbos Everybody. (Sendak once noted that one of his greatest inspirations was his father’s telling of stories from the Torah.) By the late 1950’s, he started writing his own children’s books. His most famous work came in 1963, and made Sendak a household name. Where the Wild Things Are was very controversial when first published, criticized for its edgy theme and “dark” illustrations. Sendak attributed this to his own difficult childhood, having lost many family members in the Holocaust. Nonetheless, the book became hugely popular, and went on to sell over 20 million copies worldwide. It has since been adapted into a Hollywood film and even an opera, and has been ranked as the best picture book of all time. All in all, Sendak authored 22 books, illustrated 90 more, and wrote, directed, or produced seven films. He saw himself not as a children’s author, but an “author who told the truth about children”. Sendak won many awards, including the National Medal of the Arts, and the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award for “lasting contribution to children’s literature”. Sendak donated $1 million to New York’s Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, and left his precious collection of over 10,000 artworks, books, and manuscripts to be turned into a museum and library. He was a humble man, and avoided book signings because he “couldn’t stand the thought of parents dragging children to wait in line for hours to see a little old man in thick glasses.” After his passing of a stroke at age 83, The New York Times hailed him as “the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century.”

Words of the Week

It’s a Jewish way of getting through life. You acknowledge what is spectacular and beautiful and also you don’t close your eyes to the pain and the difficulty.
– playwright Tony Kushner, on Maurice Sendak’s books.

Jew of the Week: Rabbi Marvin Hier

The Rabbi at Trump’s Inauguration

Rabbi Hier at Trump’s Inauguration

Moshe Chaim Hier (b. 1939) was born in New York to Polish-Jewish immigrants. At the age of 23, he was ordained as an Orthodox rabbi and moved to Vancouver where he soon took charge of its Congregation Schara Tzedeck. In 1977, Hier moved to Los Angeles and established the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a non-profit dedicated to “confronting antisemitism, hate and terrorism, promoting human rights and dignity, standing with Israel, defending the safety of Jews worldwide, and teaching the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations.” The Simon Wiesenthal Center is now one of the most well-known Jewish organizations in the world, with offices in Toronto, Jerusalem, Paris, Buenos Aires, and across the US. Its Museum of Tolerance welcomes 350,000 visitors a year, and its library holds over 50,000 important volumes. Hier also established the Moriah Films company, which has produced over a dozen films focusing on Jewish history and the Holocaust. Two of these won Academy Awards for Best Documentary. This makes Hier the only rabbi to ever win an Oscar. He is also the only rabbi to be a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Meanwhile, Hier established Los Angeles’ Yeshiva University High Schools and was its dean for many years. He is currently working on a $200 million project to build a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, to open next year, and producing his 16th film, about the life of Shimon Peres. Most recently, Rabbi Hier gave a blessing at President Donald Trump’s inauguration. This made him only the second Jewish religious leader in history to speak at a presidential inauguration, and the first Orthodox rabbi to ever do so. He has been ranked as the most influential rabbi in America, and was once described as being “one phone call away from almost every world leader, journalist, and Hollywood studio head.”

Words of the Week

The bond that has united the Jews for thousands of years and that unites them today is, above all, the democratic ideal of social justice coupled with the ideal of mutual aid and tolerance among all men.
– Albert Einstein