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Ioana Rostos and Joe Poras, insensitivity and dishonesty

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  • Miriam Taylor
    The Czernowitz Reunion 2006 was for many of us, a one time opportunity to be in the city of our birth and childhood with others who shared our memories of a
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2006
      The "Czernowitz Reunion 2006" was for many of us, a one time opportunity
      to be in the city of our birth and childhood with others who shared our
      memories of a way of life, a tradition and our feeling of having been
      uprooted. Some of us had suffered the horrors of Transnistria, or knew
      about them from our parents and grandparents.

      I was among the fortunate Czernowitz Jews, I remained in Czernowitz
      throughout the war, I did not suffer hunger or disease, witnessed no killing
      and the only person of my immediate family to die as a consequence of the
      war, was my paternal grandmother. Nevertheless, I developed a deep sorrow
      about my wartime experiences. This sorrow is linked and inseparable from my
      thoughts and feelings about Czernowitz.

      When it was occasionally suggested that journalists or researchers who did
      not share our background, be included among the participants of the reunion,
      I objected. This reunion was not to be a public spectacle, also not an
      academic discussion. We were going to discuss our own lives!

      In what follows, message numbers refer to
      messages of the czernowitz2006 yahoo group.
      Messages to the Cz. - List are archived
      on the Czernowitz.ehpes web-site.

      On December 30, 2005, Ioana Rostos joined the Cz. - List
      and wrote a letter part of which is reproduced below:

      > I am currently working on a doctoral thesis on
      > the subject of the daily newspaper ìCzernowitzer
      > Morgenblattî, yet another one of the numerous
      > German-speaking Jewish newspapers published in
      > Czernowitz between 1918 and 1940, i.e., during
      > the period of time in which the said city,
      > together with the whole of the province, belonged
      > to the Kingdom of Romania.
      >    That subject matter was suggested to me by the
      > renowned professor and publicist Andrei
      > Corbea-Hoisie, Ph. D., of the ìAl. I. Cuzaî State
      > University of Iasi, Romania, now Ambassador of
      > Romania in Austria. Unlike him, I am not Jewish,

      On Jan 15th, 2006 she sent the list another letter,
      which included the following paragraph:

      > You see, the strange thing is that the
      > present director of the Library of the Romanian
      > Academy, a gentleman called Gabriel Strempel,
      > seems to be a Jew as well, and yet he gave us a
      > rather stern ìNoî for an answer when my husband
      > and I approached him a while ago with the
      > question whether or not he would allow an
      > inter-librarian loan of the ìCzernowitzer
      > Morgenblattî to the library of our university.
      > Certainly, I understand that there are rules
      > concerning the rare old newspapers and books but
      > then, we do have a saying in Romania that goes
      > something like, ìAny good final goal may prove to
      > be a good excuse for shady means.î

      Possibly I am oversensitive to utterances which have the faintest
      hint of anti-Semitism. But the implication by Ioana Rostos, that
      the director of the Library of the Romanian Academy would not send her
      archival material because he was Jewish set off alarm bells in my mind.
      It is standard policy in all archival libraries, not to send out
      archival material via interlibrary loans.
      Why did Ioana Rostos think it necessary to tell us that the director
      of the library was Jewish, how was that relevant?
      And even had the librarian refused to send her the copies of the
      "Morgenblatt" because he was Jewish and she was not, why complain
      to the Cz. - List about it? Are we supposedly all in league to cause
      trouble to non-Jews? Or do we have the power to influence all our

      Ioana Rostos's assertion that the goal justifies the means - she wrote:
      "Any good final goal may prove to be a good excuse for shady means".
      set off further alarm bells. Not only because we have witnessed
      what such attitudes can lead to, but also because the goal was
      a purely selfserving and insignificant one.

      Sometime later I received a letter from Ioana Rostos in which she inquired
      whether she could join the reunion.
      In my answer (contained in her message #335) I wrote:

      > Participation in the "Czernowitz Reunion 2006" is not restricted. You are
      > therefore welcome to join. To acquaint yourself with all our previous
      > discussions and decisions please read the past messages in the yahoo group
      > czernowitz2006. All of us who are participating in the reunion are either
      > Jewish Czernowitzers, their descendants or friends and family members. Our
      > program for the reunion is based on this fact. Your interest in the reunion is
      > professional rather than emotional. My personal opinion (NOT representative of
      > the whole group, also not of the committee) is that there will be occasions
      > when your presence will inhibit us in our behavior and discussions. These
      > occasions include:
      > 1. The memorial service at the cemetery on May 21.
      > 2. The discussion session about the period of WW2
      > 3. The discussion session about our memories and thoughts about Czernowitz.
      > Please understand, that for most of us this is the first and
      > only opportunity to be with others like us in the city where we were born and
      > spent our childhood. We will not want to be observed or studied. We have
      > agreed not to let anyone film, photograph, videotape or record us, except by
      > permission of those being photographed or taped. In my opinion the
      > Czernowitz Reunion 2006 is to be treated similarly to a private family
      > occasion. I suggest that if you want to interview some of us, you come to
      > Chernivtsi for part of the time we will be there and interview those who want
      > to be interviewed.

      To this she replied (part of message #335):

      > Also, should my presence become undesirable at some point or another, I would
      > certainly not try to impose myself in any way. Though I would personally like
      > to
      > attend even the memorial service and the discussions related to times way
      > before
      > I was born. I¹ve been attending quite a few meetings and ceremonies with the
      > Jewish Community in Radautz, and I occasionally go to other churches than my
      > own, and I always feel enriched afterwards. Sure, I¹m the odd person out, who
      > doesn¹t know the answering words during the ceremonies, but that just comes
      > with
      > the territoryŠ
      > So I hope that my joining the group is not going to be misunderstood in any
      > way. It is my (bad?) luck that I must concern myself with this newspaper
      > written
      > (mostly) by Jews from Czernowitz. I think that, in order to do a good job of
      > it,
      > I need to re-create the atmosphere of those yearsŠin any way I can. And the
      > Reunion might be just the right occasionŠas for my emotional involvement,
      > don¹t
      > be surprised if every now and then I¹ll be the first to burst into tearsŠI
      > tend
      > to do that sometimes, like, when I hear people talk about the Holocaust, for
      > example.
      > That being said, I¹ll end here. Please note that I¹m not expecting anyone and
      > everyone to receive me with open arms. It would be very rewarding to me if I
      > simply was accepted.
      > Thank you, Ioana.
      Judge for yourselves what you make of this letter.
      There followed a number of letters by various members of the czernowitz2006
      Yahoo group, some encouraging Ioana Rostos to come to all meetings and
      activities of the reunion, others questioning why I agreed to Ioana Rostos
      coming to some of our joint activities, when I had previously objected to
      the presence of journalist and movie makers.

      In answer to all these letters, I wrote (message #342):

      > Dear All,
      > This message represents just my opinion and should be considered as such.
      > As I wrote to Jane Rostos and previously to Gabriele, and as may have been
      > evident from many of my previous letters to this group, I consider the
      > "Czernowitz Reunion 2006" a meeting of
      > US
      > It is a first and probably only opportunity for us to be together in the
      > city where we or our ancestors were born and talk about the things that not
      > only interest us intellectually, we could do this anywhere, any time with
      > anybody, but to pour out our feelings, share our intimate thoughts, memories
      > and unanswered questions.
      > The presence of Strangers, people who are not Jewish Czernowitzers, their
      > descendants, close relatives and friends, will inhibit us, disturb us and
      > make the whole meeting a farce. So will any actions by Jewish Czernowitzers,
      > who's overriding purpose is to study us like guinea pigs.
      > Before answering Jane Rostos, I asked the committee members for their
      > opinion, I did the same every time Gabriele asked about inviting Journalists
      > and Film makers. It so happens that when I asked about the Journalists and
      > film makers, the members of the committee agreed with me, when I asked about
      > the participation of Jane Rostos, they did not. That is why I wrote Jane the
      > way I did. Personally I am against Jane being a participant at the reunion.
      > I do not want her present at the memorial service, (remember my objection to
      > inviting the Chernivtsi mayor, even though some of you thought this would
      > be politically or diplomatically advisable) nor when we talk about our
      > experiences during WW2. Nor when we talk about the experiences of our
      > parents in the 1930ties, nor when we talk about how we feel right now.
      > Some of you will call me prejudiced, bigoted, politically incorrect.
      > My answer is: I do not invite strangers to family and friends gatherings.
      > If you say: but the Jewish Czernowitzers are not your friends and relatives.
      > I will answer that they have the potential to be such, at least we share
      > something that is very important to me. Others do not.
      > So far everything we have done has been decided about democratically.
      > I personally do not have the time, energy, stamina or "Cheshek" to send out
      > a questionnaire and find out what the majority wants. Any of you are welcome
      > to do so and we will act accordingly.
      > Unless someone does so, I propose that Jane Rostos, Voelker Koepp, Othmar
      > Andre and anyone else who's interest in the reunion is only professional,
      > not be admitted to any of our joint functions.
      > This is not a circus or a colony of experimental mice!
      > Seit gesund,
      > Mimi

      This letter elicited a storm of controversy.
      Some understood and agreed with my point of view and feelings,
      Others did not and misconstrued what I had written.

      I was on the point of withdrawing from the proposed reunion.
      I felt misunderstood, humiliated and soiled.

      I expected Ioana Rostos to say:
      "In view of the storm my proposed presence at the reunion elicited,
      I will not attend".

      Any decent person with an ounce of sensitivity, would have done so.
      She did not.

      The debate continued till on March 3rd, Simon Kreindler,
      sent the following message (#369):

      > Dear Czernowitzers:
      > The organizing committee are anxious to move forward with the Reunion, as
      > planned. To this end, we wish to reiterate the decision previously taken by
      > the
      > committee and hope that this remains acceptable to all.
      > The memorial service at the Jewish cemetery, the talk/discussion session about
      > Cz during WWII, and the final talk/discussion session on Cz ?heritage? are
      > seen
      > as programs for Czernowitzers only (i.e. Reunion participants who were either
      > born in Cz, their children and/or grandchildren).
      > As is obvious to all, this has become a very divisive issue. We respectfully
      > suggest the time has come to drop all further discussion about voting and
      > about
      > who is or is not to be included in the Reunion. Let us move forward.
      > With best regards,
      > Simon Kreindler
      > David Glynn
      > Arthur Rindner

      I answered in message #373, quoted here in full:

      > Let me add to the above:
      > Spouses, girl friends, boy friends, any kind of permanent (not made for the
      > purpose of attending the reunion) friends, Czernowitzers or not, Jewish or
      > not, are also are welcome to attend all joint functions.
      > Spectators and observers are not.

      The debate finished there. There were no further messages from Ioana Rostos
      and I thought that she finally did have some sense of decency.

      I was wrong, not only about Ioana Rostos having a sense of decency, but
      about Joe Poras and others among the reunion participants, to whom Ioana
      Rostos' assistance in Romania, and in traveling to Chernivtsi, was more
      important than honesty, decency and consideration for me and others who felt
      like me. That we did not want to bare our souls in front of people who did
      not share our emotions and had shown no sensitivity to our sorrow, mattered
      not at all to them.

      Ioana Rostos did come to the reunion, She was NOT one of the registered
      participants and unlike all other participants, had no reunion pass.
      Joe Poras brought her along, with the excuse that she could use the pass of
      his daughter, who had decided not to attend.

      Now we had in our midst a person who was insensitive to our feelings,
      selfish enough to put her own goals ahead of those who had conceived the
      idea of having the reunion in Chernivtsi and done most of the work
      of making the reunion possible. Even when it became obvious, that I would
      not attend the sessions of talks and discussions, if she was present, she
      did not leave the room. Joe Poras, was not in the least apologetic for his
      behavior. Pleased in his deception and dishonesty, he argued that she should
      stay. And stay she did.

      That is what happens when "Any good final goal may prove to
      be a good excuse for shady means".
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