Sunday, 25 January 2015

Keeping the Memory Alive

The Holocaust workshop at the Manchester Jewish Museum will open on Tuesday

In preparation for its new Holocaust educational workshop due to launch next Tuesday on Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Manchester Jewish Museum opened its doors this Sunday for a preview and a commemoration talk.

Rose Stanyon, the learning officer and outreach manager at the Museum opened the ceremony with a definition of the Holocaust according to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and reminded the audience about the six millions Jews that lost their lives to the cruelty of the Nazis, as well as the disabled, homosexuals, Roma and political dissidents that were equally persecuted.

The Holocaust Remembrance Day has been observed since 2001 in the UK. As set by the HMD, this year’s theme for the ceremonies was “keeping the memory alive,” and so the museum decided to share the stories of three survivors who currently live in Manchester: Haim Ferster, Helen Taichner and Peter Kurer.

The workshop, which will be opened to the public from Tuesday, revolves around the moving yet terrifying testimonies of these individuals. For now, it consists in videos and audio files that are available on ipads. The museum, mainly funded by visiting fees and donations, hopes to improve it by adding projections and other testimonies once it reaches its goal budget. The workshop is available to book for school and private groups.

After Ms. Stanyon’s speech, the audience was invited to preview the workshop and later on a tour of the main exhibition which focuses on the Manchester Jewry and Judaism.

But the Manchester Jewish Museum wasn’t the only museum organising a commemoration event. The Imperial War Museum is offering free tours around the set theme and organised a lively klezmer concert in its main exhibition area.
The band, the Burning Bush, played traditional Yiddish and Ladino songs as well as very lively klezmer.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie 2

Today, like millions of people in the world, I walked to defend our democracies' values. I took the streets in Périgueux having decorated my bag with the words "Je Suis Charlie" especially for the occasion. This walk meant so many different things to me.

People walked to honour the memory of the 17 victims of different terrorist attacks, to show the world they care, to defend freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of cult, people stood together as one in Paris and several other cities in France and the world. Today millions of people were Charlie.

As well as regular citizens, 50 country representatives joined the French president, François Hollande, in Paris to show their support to France. Among them were representatives of Greece, Israel, Algeria, Turkey, Egypt, Palestine, the Emirates, all of which walked arm in arm in the name of Freedom of speech.

All day in the press I heard no mention of the 12 Palestinian journalists who died in the last 4 weeks in Gaza, killed by Israeli soldiers, neither did I hear about the closure of Greek public television and radio or the hundreds of Greek journalists who continue to work for free when they could be arrested at any time like many already have, no mention of the threats Turkish journalists got from their government after the attack, no mention of the massive censorship in the media that goes on in all these countries, all the journalists that are thrown in jail every day in these countries for speaking up.

I cannot believe all the journalists covering the events today are that naive or ignorant, these things are no secret.

And where were the people when the Greek media was shut down? Where were the people when Syria started executing its journalists? Where is the world when freedom of speech is under attack in Russia? and in other countries?

Today, not only did I walk for the journalists who died on Wednesday and the police officers and hostages who died but I also walked for all my colleagues and friends around the world who are threatened, imprisoned, oppressed by their government, the ones the media forgot or intentionally omitted today. They too are the victims of terrorism, they too are Charlie and have been all along.

Thursday, 8 January 2015


"The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them." – Thomas Jefferson
There are times when people ask me if I’m French and I reply, half-jokingly, “don’t call me French, I’m Belgian!” I take an offended tone; I don’t want to be French. But today, I am, everyone is French, I am and everyone else is Charlie.

Sitting in my mum’s house in the French countryside, we’re grieving, the tears and whisky are flowing. We are scared at the idea that there are people in this world who are willing to kill because they didn’t find a joke funny.

The radio is on, we’re following the development of the events, listening to the day-long homage to the people who died for the freedom of expression, freedom of press. France and the French press are grieving, people around the world are uniting to show their support.

In Nick Clegg’s words (yes, Nick Clegg), “in a free society people have to be free to offend each other. You cannot have freedom unless people are free to offend each other. We have no right not to be offended. That fundamental principle of being free to offend people - and not saying somehow that you have a right not be offended in a democratic, open, society such as ours is exactly what was under threat by these murderous barbarians.” He was answering a caller who tried to justify the horrificattack.

So many people are uniting yet a lot of hate has risen from this. Several French mosques have already been attacked since the terrorist attack, no one was wounded or killed but it shows that the islamophobic politicians will probably have gained quite a few votes during this episode.

Front National’s leader, Marine Lepen, is now calling for a referendum on capital punishment, Fox News is calling formore weapons, hatred calls for hatred. But as many people said, including French President François Hollande, we should remain strong and united and not succumb to hatred, which would mean the terrorists will have won.

Let’s fight, stand up for our right to offend anyone we want, say whatever bullshit we want. After all when Charlie Hebdo mocked the Pope, Catholics didn’t attack journalists or even threatened them and when they published “The King of the jerks is dead” when Belgian King Baudouin died, Belgians didn’t burn down offices.

Tonight I will proudly stand in Périgueux to commemorate and honour the memory of journalists, geniuses and colleagues. I will also stand for my right, our right, to think what we want and express ourselves, I will not be silenced. Today I am Charlie, we are Charlie, because we should not leave any room for hatred.