Orator to look back 80 years

Professor Michael Berenbaum.

VISITING US scholar Professor Michael Berenbaum will discuss how the Holocaust is viewed in today’s world when he delivers this year’s Betty and Shmuel Rosenkranz Oration to commemorate Kristallnacht. Marking the 80th anniversary of the Nazi pogrom that shook German and Austrian Jewry to its foundations, Berenbaum will speak from his perspective as a Holocaust scholar, rabbi, writer and filmmaker.

The annual oration – held by the Jewish Holocaust Centre (JHC) in conjunction with the Goldman, Rosenkranz and Lazarus families – is a tribute to the late Betty and Shmuel Rosenkranz for their abiding contribution to the JHC and the wider Jewish community.

Berenbaum is professor of Jewish studies at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and director of the university’s Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust.

The oration traditionally takes place on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, November 9-10, which Shmuel, who passed away in 2016, witnessed in Vienna in 1938.

The 1938 attacks, which were later seen as a forerunner of the Shoah, destroyed 267 synagogues throughout Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland, with more than 7000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged.

Born in Vienna, Rosenkranz once told The AJN, “I still weep today for what I saw on that night. I saw the synagogues of Vienna go up in flames … I was fortunate to escape up into the hills with my late father … we saw the skies lit with the fires of the synagogues.

“The following morning, when we risked coming down and we walked the streets, we saw the broken glass, we saw the looted shops, we saw holy books, we saw Sifrei Torah burned, vandalised, torn.”

Escaping Vienna at 17, Rosenkranz and family members sailed to Australia, settling in Carlton. He quickly became active in communal affairs, collecting for JNF and helping found a Habonim group.

In addition to being JHC’s president for many years, he was appointed as its inaugural life governor at the 2015 Oration event.

Betty and Shmuel were involved with many communal organisations, including Bialik College, where the Rosenkranz Centre for Excellence and Achievement bears their name.

PETER KOHN

The Betty and Shmuel Rosenkranz Oration will take place at the St Kilda Town Hall, November 11, at 7pm. Attendances should be registered at www.trybooking.com/435547. Further information, (03) 9528 1985.