Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Senator Stanford Adelstein


Theodore Roosevelt - 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again;

...because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Sen. Stanford Adelstein is a fourth term 
Republican State Senator 
from South Dakota’s 32nd District:

I want to share with you a few life experiences that have been very meaningful to me and that would subsequently lead me to get involved with Thanks to Scandinavia, as did my granddaughter Shirley, who is currently a board member. 

Shirley's grandmother survived Auschwitz, but when the sister fell in the snow during the death march from Bergen-Belsen, she refused to leave her. They were not seen in the dark, and thus they escaped without summary execution.

My late wife, was born and lived in Lodz, Poland at the time of the Nazi occupation. Her parents both spoke Polish without Yiddish accent - unlike most Polish Jews – and also some upper-class German. Choosing to risk death by neither wearing the yellow star nor moving into the ghetto, they passed as Poles with German background. They escaped the Nazi occupation in late January or early February 1940, after the Nazi occupation. Shirley's grandfather managed to hide in Budapest, evading identification as Jew and remaining outside of the ghetto throughout the war.

Here comes the nub of the story: My oldest son, Dan is a West Point graduate and was an Army officer stationed in Berlin at the time, where Shirley was born.

The first time I became aware of the Danish rescue was while visiting Israel in 1965. I was listening to a lecture on some subject or other (unrelated to the Shoah) in a classroom at Hebrew University. Around the room, there were charts indicating the destruction rate of Jews of the Jewish communities of Europe. For the first time, I saw what had happened in Denmark, something I had never heard about before. Returning home to the United States, I did some research and learned of the rescue – that special Rosh Hashana in Denmark. 

The rescue of the Danish Jews occurred during Nazi Germany's occupation of Denmark during World War II. On September 27, 1943, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler ordered Danish Jews to be arrested and deported. Despite great personal risk, the Danish resistance movement, with the assistance of many ordinary Danish citizens, took part in a collective effort to evacuate about 8,000 Jews of Denmark by sea to nearby neutral Sweden.
The rescue allowed the vast majority of Denmark's Jewish population to avoid capture by the Nazis and is considered to be one of the largest actions of collective resistance to repression in the countries occupied by Nazi Germany. As a result of the rescue and Danish intercession on behalf of the 5% of Danish Jews who were deported to Theresienstadt transit camp in Bohemia, over 99% of Denmark's Jewish population survived the Holocaust. 
As I learned more about what happened in Denmark, I became very interested in the question that defied understanding -- WHY? The actions of the Danish people were so remarkable, and I thought of how different the experience was for Jews in other parts in Europe. The story had a profound impact on me, and I have carried its lessons with me throughout my life. 
For example, years ago there was a very skilled Danish woodcarver, Helge Christiansen, who had come to South Dakota for an unusual project in Rapid City. A successful banker commissioned him to build a replica of the oldest standing wooden Stave church in Scandinavia as a donation to our community in honor of his immigrant father, who had been a Lutheran Pastor. Helge decided to remain following the completion of the project, doing very specialized and beautiful woodwork. My wife and I met him when we participated in discussion group at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. When we asked him to try to explain to me why it was that the Danes did what they had done, he said to me - words never to be forgotten - "This is what one person does for another." 
In 1972, there was a terrible flood in Rapid City in which a significant number of lives were lost and a number of businesses were destroyed. Helge's shop was destroyed; all of his tools were washed down the river, as was his old car. I saw him on the street a day or two after the flood, and I asked what he was planned on doing. With the dazed expression of a survivor, he said, "I don't know. My car is gone, and my shop is gone with all of my tools." I told him, "Our company has a large equipment shop that has storage space on the second floor. We will let you use it. Give us a list of the tools you need to continue making your magnificent woodwork, and we will order them. And, by the way, we have several older pick-up trucks that we are planning to sell, but until you replace your car, one of them will be yours." He asked, "Why are you doing this?" And I responded, "You told me why." He looked puzzled, so I explained, "Have you forgotten what you told me when you were asked what happened before Rosh Hashana in 1943 in Denmark? As you replied, ‘This is what one person does for another.'
I have been moved to find this view echoed by other Danish people. A few years ago my wife and I went for a bike ride in Denmark. In Copenhagen we visited the "Museum of the Resistance.” As we came out, we asked our young taxi driver if he was aware of what had happened to the Jews of Denmark in 1943. He turned around - which was not a good idea in Copenhagen traffic - and said, "Of course I know. I had an uncle or an aunt that had been involved. What else could we do?" We did not have the heart to explain what happened to other European Jews.
This history also takes on special significance for me because there are probably more Scandinavian descendants in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota than there are in Scandinavia. They brought their social values and concerns to this part of the world. One of the concerns was the need to take care of those who needed assistance. For that purpose, they formed an organization called Lutheran Social Services (LSS).

At the start of my first term as a State legislator in 2000 - at the age of 69 - I was appointed to the Appropriations Committee because of my business background. Because LSS has a very sizeable appropriation from legislature for the provision social services in the state, LSS invited the committee members to a dinner with the goal of laying out the budget plan. After the meal, a gift was given to each legislator in attendance. Watching my colleagues opening their little gift boxes that contained beautiful Black Hills Gold crosses, I leaned over to my wife Lynda and said, "What do I do now!?" She said, "Just say thank you and sit down!" Opening my gift box, I wes surprised to find that there was a small gold Star of David inscribed with word "Zion" in Hebrew. 
From here on, I became more involved with LSS. I was invited to be on their board of directors nad became the first non-Lutheran as well as the first non-Christian to be invited to the board. Last December my service as a member on the board of this magnificent organization ended. However, through the years of service, as I because more involved with LSS, I developed a wonderful relationship with Pastor David Zellmer, who was elected Bishop several years ago for the 107,000 member synod of ELCA in South Dakota. 
As a former musician, I blow the shofar for our little congregation at the Synagogue of the Hills. Knowing this, Bishop Zellmer asked if it would be possible for me to sound the shofar as the Call to Worship for his installation ceremony in the beautiful Lutheran Church at Augustana College in Sioux Fall, South Dakota. The shofar was sounded and it turned out to be very special for all who attended that ceremony. As I blew the shofar, I found myself thinking that perhaps this was the same kind of shofar that, along with other ritual objects like Torahs and books, was hidden in a Lutheran church from the Great Synagogue of Denmark on that eve of Rosh Hashana of 1943."

Sen. Stan Adelstein