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Cecil Rosner presents Zev Faintuch with award.
Photo by Mark Gershkovich.

Belle Milo, Shelley Faintuch, Zev’s mother, Sonja Faintuch, Zev’s grandmother and Zev Faintuch.
Photo by Mark Gershkovich.



By Rhonda Spivak, September 22, 2010

Zev Faintuch was awarded the  Mina Rosner Human Rights Award on September 22 which  is presented to the winning entry in the Mina Rosner Human Rights Essay Competition [His winning essay is presented at the bottom of this article]. The ceremony took place yesterday at the Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre of the Jewish Heritage Centre  at the Asper Campus.

The $400 prize is awarded annually to Manitoba students in grades 9-12 who produce the best essays on the theme of the Holocaust or other important human rights issues, which exemplify the message that Mina Rosner, a Holocaust survivor, brought to schools and the general public.

Mina Rosner, who was born in Buchach, [now in the Ukraine] was the sole survivor of her family in the Holocaust and moved to Winnipeg in 1948.  Faintuch was presented with the award by  Mina Rosner’s son Cecil.
Belle Millo, chairperson of the  Freeman Family Foundation Holocasut Education Centre, who gave opening remarks at the award ceremony  noted that “ Mina Rosner dedicated her life to educating people about the Holocaust and devoted countless hours to speaking engagements with students about the importance of combatting racism and defending human rights. She recorded her wartime experiences in her book I am a Witness. In 1990, she returned to Buchach for the first time since the war, and the visit was captured in an award winning CBC documentary called Return to Buchach. "

As Cecil Rosner told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, after his mother passed away [ in 1997] “the  family decided  that people who wanted to make contributions in her memory [and keep her legacy alive] should make them to the  Mina Rosner Memorial Fund  at The Jewish Foundation of Manitoba. There was about 10,000 dollars  and the annual interest from the fund is used for this competition which should be enduring.”

As Millo said in her introduction, Faintuch , the grandchild of holocaust survivors, "produced an excellent essay” and also “truly exemplifies the issues that were so important to the late Mina Rosner.”

Millo added that Faintuch’s essay, Lessons Not Learned  “impressed the jury with its mature focus on the theme of the world’s failure to have learned anything from the Shoah in preventing genocide” and the need to be vigilant. 

As Faintuch wrote:  “If we had learned anything from the Shoah we should have learned this: as soon as a group of people is socially and politically alienated in a country, there is a problem and potential for genocide. We need to… be prepared to act on our moral principles and on international principles that are supposed to prevent genocide.”

Faintuch also wrote: “Invasion for political gain is not just. Intervention to prevent the mass murder of innocent human beings is not only acceptable but is imperative


Faintuch leaves next week to participate in the program Marva and from there he hopes to enlist in the  Israeli Defense Forces.

He told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, that “I have had the idea of enlisting in the IDF ever since I participated in March of the Living in 2008.  After  March of the Living  I swore that  I’d do anything to protect the Jewish homeland and make it a safe haven for Jews.”

Faintuch said he has been to Israel four times and  has a lot of friends there.  “My friends are going in the army . I think it will be a good experience for personal growth,” he said.

When asked if he intended to make aliyah, Faintuch answered  that “It’s too soon to tell. I don’t know.”

When asked if he is frightened at all, he said no but “I’m nervous about the lifestyle changes and about not knowing too many people and having to adapt to the language and culture.”

In introducing the award Milo said “ Zev has always endeavored to achieve academically while, at the same time, participating in sports, musicals, and volunteering in the community. He represented Gray Academy at various conferences and programs, such as the United Way and Forum for Young Canadians; he co-chaired the P2K Committee; he was a P2K delegate to Israel and participated in the March of the Living. Zev undertook many leadership positions in the school: participated in student council, he co-chaired the first high school advocacy committee; and was the President of the Student Council in his final year of high school. He has a keen interest in history and politics and has volunteered for political candidates in the community. Zev has worked hard over the last few years to raise awareness of human rights abuses in Sudan, Afghanistan and Iran through the Raoul Wallenberg Day Conferences that he has helped to organize. He is a strong Zionist and has also advocated for fair press and treatment of Israel."

Lessons Not Learned

By Zev Faintuch

If we have learned anything from the Shoah, it is that forgetting is easier that remembering. For if we, the citizens of the world, had not forgotten what happened in Nazi Germany and Europe some seventy years ago, we would not have allowed Armenians, Cambodians, Darfurians, Kosovans, Rwandans, and many others to be slaughtered because of prejudice. However, should we intervene in the internal affairs of other countries? When is it right to invade another country’s sovereignty for a noble cause? When is it right to stand by and allow history to take its course? Do we have the moral right to impose our values on other countries? These questions arise as a result of the study of the Shoah and the issue of the incredible number of bystanders, nations and individuals, who allowed it to happen.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing (Edmund Burke).” During the Shoah, the Nazi regime had a reign of terror, a totalitarian regime in which criticism and acts in defiance of policy were punishable by death. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, refused to pledge allegiance to Hitler and were, therefore, sent to concentration camps and had to suffer the consequences. Individuals who dared to hide Jews were not only killed but their families were killed as well. Many individuals watched what was happening to the Jews and claimed it was too dangerous for them to act to prevent the horrors. They played it safe. Can we really blame them for wanting to live or should we expect them to have acted “morally” and saved the lives of individuals they didn’t know? Some individuals simply hid behind the fear of being caught and some just turned a blind eye. Simple, ordinary, family people who were respectable members of society did not act to prevent the crimes.

Then there were also the nations of the world who stood by and did little or nothing to ease the plight of the Jews.  One of the common excuses was that the nations really did not know what was happening. This cannot be the truth. The news of Kristallnacht, for example, made the front pages of newspapers in New York, London and most of the western world. Yet, they refused to open their arms and their doors to let in significant numbers of Jewish refugees claiming, as did then Prime Minister William Mackenzie King of Canada, that this was not the time to act on humanitarian grounds. We have only to look at the plight of the nine hundred and thirty-seven passengers on board the ill-fated St. Louis. Not only did Cuba refuse to allow them to disembark, but Panama, the United States, and Canada also stood by and watched the ship re

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.