RIP: Toni Doreen Childers

toni-300x72pxToni Doreen Childers died this morning after a long illness.

Toni was born April 7, 1937 in San Antonio and grew up in Goliad, Texas. Both cities influenced her interest in Texas history. She attended Baylor University where she studied theater and design and was selected 1955-56 Baylor Beauty. Baylor University is also where Toni met her husband to be, Donald Pope Childers.

After their marriage, the couple moved about the southern United States, following Donald’s assignments in the US Marine Corps. They eventually settled in Odessa, Texas where Donald continued his career as a lawyer until his death in 1978.

In addition to her interest in Texas history, Toni was a gifted artist and designer. She enjoyed drawing and designing and making clothes.

Toni was preceded in death by her parents, Alton and Teryel Griffin, and husband, Donald Pope Childers. She is survived by her sister Pat Holford (and husband Dean, Port Lavaca, TX); son Shannon (Leander, TX); daughter, Alison (The Woodlands, TX); and daughter Colleen Dunning (and husband Craig, Arlington, TX); grandchildren Christin, Asenith, Grace, and Zach; and four great grandchildren.

 

I know it’s just Twitter, but …

I know it’s just Twitter, and people say all kinds of “brave” things from behind a computer monitor, but these tweets accurately reflect the feelings/thoughts of a number of people in parts of the Middle East.

There is hope for a changed perspective, though; these were also the feelings of Respondent Four, who participated in my research. See his story here.

Screenshot 2014-09-26 06.28.32

Screenshot from https://twitter.com/abuaminah_

Israel Tour Highlight #137010: Repost

Beniko Gihon #137010

Beniko Gihon #137010

In honor of International Holocaust Day, I re-post this Israel tour highlight.

Working with tour groups in Israel is [almost] always a blessing. It’s exciting to see visitors’ faces when, as they say in Hebrew, “the coin falls.” In other words, when “the light comes on” or the connection between a certain event and place happens. I love to see the joy of discovery, especially as it relates to the Bible. But my groups generally have modern cultural and historical interests, too. Every group is different, and I’m regularly on the look out for things out of the ordinary, not on the itinerary that will make my group’s visit to Israel more special than it might already be. For this group, I found that special historical gem in the breakfast line.

As I approached the special-order egg line, I noticed the tattoo on his arm, 137010. Immediately, I knew he was a holocaust survivor because I’ve seen these tattoos in the museum, and probably a dozen times in person. However, I never had the nerve to ask the bearer to share his/her story; I just imagined what it might have been.

This time was different. I took a deep breath and asked the elderly gentleman a) if he spoke Hebrew, and b) if I could ask a question. “Yes,” he answered to both questions. I was hesitant, but I proceeded to ask if he would tell me the story of the numeric tattoo that appeared on his left forearm. I was afraid he would be embarrassed, but he wasn’t. In fact, he seemed pleased that I asked.

Beniko Gihon #137010

Beniko Gihon #137010

Interacting with my inquiry about his tattoo, he said, “My name is Beniko Gihon; in Germany my name was changed to 137010. I am a Jew originally from Greece.” He continued with a moving, two-minute version of his story. His family had been rounded up in Thessaloniki, and he was the only survivor. Over the course of five years, he was systematically transferred to/from Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Warsaw Ghetto, and Dachau. He had a variety of jobs, but mainly focused on his work in the crematoria.

I was translating his story for a man from my group and noticed that others had started to lean in closer to listen in on our conversation, which indicated that they found this interesting, too. After a couple minutes, his eggs and mine were ready, so, unfortunately, we had to bring this encounter to a close. I thanked him for sharing his story, we shook hands, and parted ways.

I found a table near my group and sat down by myself. To say that his story was gut wrenching would be an exaggerated understatement. But, his story wasn’t the thing that affected me the most. It was the question he posed: “Why were the Christians so quiet?”

I wanted my group to hear Beniko’s story, but I wondered if that would be asking too much. As I ate my breakfast, I kept an eye on him from across the room and wondered whether I should ask him to speak on the bus. Since he didn’t seem to mind my initial inquiry, I decided to go for it, and the outcome was just what I had hoped.

After my group boarded the bus, I brought them up to speed on what was about to happen, then I introduced Mr. Beniko. He climbed the stairs and stood proudly in the front of the bus and began to share his story.

Beniko, which is the Greek version of Benjamin, started with some details of his family and how the Nazis came to Greece and killed so many. The rest were taken to the labor and death camps in Germany and Poland, which is where he learned to speak German, and where his name was changed to 137010.

His story lasted longer than I had given him, which I knew it would. But, seeing him standing in the front of the bus and hearing his biography was worth every minute.

Some specific details that pierced my heart:

“I saw, with my own eyes, the soldiers toss little children in the air and shoot them like birds.”

“As people were herded off the trains near the crematoria, they pleaded with the soldiers to know where their children or parents were. The soldiers would point to the smoke rising out of the crematoria and say, ‘there they are.’”

“The people were packed so tightly into the ‘showers’ that when the Zyklon B gas was released they all died standing, and only fell to the ground when the doors were opened. As we removed the bodies, we could see the scratches on the walls where those on the outer edges were trying to claw their way out.”

As a worker at the crematoria, “I collected the fat that came from the bodies as they were burned. The Nazis used the fat to make soap for us prisoners, and I bathed with soap that may have been made from the remains of my parents and other family members.”

Beniko’s story, made the horrors of the Holocaust real and personal for us, impacting each in a slightly different way. I tried to give some current perspective to his presentation because the easy thing would be to say, “I wasn’t there” because none of us were. I reminded the group of the words of James 1:27 that pure religion is to care for the widows and orphans, which I understand to mean “take care of those who can’t take care of themselves.” I also think that being born again demands that Christians have an active interest in “the least of these” (Mt 25).

 

Tragic and Ironic: Israel Expands Abortion in 2014

This article from Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper ends the year on a downer for me.

Beginning in 2014, Israel will fund all abortions for women 20-33. While such news isn’t surprising for me, it is certainly heartbreaking and tragic. The “progressive” attitude of Israelis toward abortion is ironic in at least four ways:

1. The expansion of abortion in Israel contradicts a very famous Jewish dictum sourced from the Talmud:

“Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he has destroyed a whole world. And whoever saves a life it is considered as if he saved a whole world. ” – Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:8 (37a)

Adam was created alone, some suggest, to demonstrate the value and potential of a single human life.

According to the article, because of the new rule “another 6,300 additional women are expected to have state-funded abortions next year.” Therefore, in Talmudic terms, the expansion of abortion in Israel will destroy the whole world an estimated 6,300 additional times in 2014.

2. The expansion of abortion in Israel contradicts the Israeli mantra “never again.” One outcome of the holocaust in which some 6,000,000 Jews were murdered is a social/national/military commitment “never again” to allow others to come close to destroying the Jewish people. Yet, Israeli Jews are doing it to themselves.

If this number of additional abortions weren’t bad enough, state health officials say “they hope to make eligibility for state funding universal in the future.”

3. The expansion of abortion in Israel contradicts the demographic concerns of Israeli Jews. It is common knowledge that many Israeli Jews are concerned about the low Jewish birth rate as it compares to a relatively higher Arab birth rate in Israel because of the democratic nature of the government of Israel. In other words, if Jews continue to kill their children in increasing numbers before they are born, the Arab population will continue to inch forward as a result of a higher birth rate, and theoretically could surpass the number of Israeli Jews. And thus, endanger the existence of the only Jewish state in the world.

4. The expansion of abortion in Israel contradicts the Jewish principle of Tikun Olam (“repairing the world”), which is appropriately credited as a motivating factor for the many positive contributions of Jews to the betterment of the world (see Michael Ordman’s Good News From Israel for examples).

Of these additional 6,300 children who are expected to be killed through abortion in 2014, how many would have become educators? Scientists? Doctors? Good neighbors? I wonder how many children those 6,300 children would have had, and among that generation, how many would have been educators, scientists, doctors, and good neighbors? Of course that 2nd unborn generation would also have had children. How many is impossible to know, but I wonder how many of them would have contributed to Tikun Olam. That question can be extrapolated out endlessly as is explained in point 1 above . . . saving a life equals saving the world.

To this point, I have only considered those babies that are expected to be killed in 2014. What about those killed through abortion in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, . . . and their generations of descendents?

This decision may appear to some to be both generous and an expansion of women’s rights and protections. However, a quick scratch of the surface reveals that it is only fool’s gold.

This Sounds Weird

Sunset, the local funeral home, has remodeled and is having an open house this weekend.

According to the article, a junior high orchestra will be performing on Saturday, and a harpist will be featured on Sunday. Kinda makes me glad I didn’t learn an instrument! You never know what kind of gig you will get. 

And to make things feel a little less weird, those who register will have the chance to win door prizes and get special discounts. I have an idea what the special discounts might include, but what kind of door prizes would one win at a funeral home open house? I may need to stop by just to find out!

I know, I know: We will all need them one day, but really, an open house? That just sounds weird.

UPDATE: By 11:30 on Saturday, I was the only one who had shown up for the open house. In fact, the orchestra didn’t even show up. They still haven’t called to tell me that I won a door prize (it was a $100 gift card), so others may have shown up after me.

The open house wasn’t exactly what I had expected; I had two workers escort me around the facilities, showing me each area. It lasted about 5 minutes and I left with the feeling I had a good chance to win the door prize.

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