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April 25, 2003 - Image 54

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-04-25

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Cover Story

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Charles and Irene Butter and Pamela and Sadik Nassar of Kibbutz Harduf Israel,
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from page 55

1994. She says it was an overwhelming
experience.
"He really questioned me about my
background and how I managed to sur-
vive," Butter says. He was interested in
the Jews because Tibetan Buddhists are
living in a diaspora and he has turned
to Judaism to learn how to survive and
thrive in it, she adds. The Dalai Lama
was one of the first visitors to the
United States Holocaust Memorial
Museum in Washington, D.C.
Butter was very moved by what
Buddhism had to offer. "It influenced
me in being compassionate and nonvio-
lent and relating to people in a more
magnanimous way," she says.
Forgiveness, she learned, is not only
because you want to forgive your enemy,
but it also allows you to heal yourself
While her Jewish identity has
remained strong throughout her life,
Butter, like her son Noah, a pastry
chef in San Francisco, turned to
Buddhism for spirituality and healing.
She is also an active member of
Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor.

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Last fall, Butter was invited to the
German town where her father was
first buried after he died on the way
to Switzerland. The town construct-
ed . a war memorial and her father's
name was on it. The high school
teacher instrumental in building the
memorial invited Butter to speak to

his German high school students.
"The people were incredibly hos-
pitable," says Butter, who went with
her husband. "I made friends, especial-
ly with this teacher and his wife."
It was like reconciliation, she says.
She could finally forgive the Germans.
The people she met were not responsi-
ble for what happened to her, and she
could see their culture had changed, she
says, adding that the people she met
really wanted to deal with Germany's
past and make up for it — making her
visit a most moving experience.
But inner peace is not the end of
Butter's story. There is another area of
discrimination she is working to
change, one that's close to her heart —
the Arab-Israeli conflict.
This direction, however, is not a
typical one for survivors.
"Irene is in many" respectsunusual in
terms of reaching out to other poten-
tially hostile groups," says Professor
Bolkosky, the Holocaust documenter.
"Most survivors don't tend to do that."
But a year ago, Butter started a
group in Ann Arbor of six Arab and
six Jewish women to find ways to
understand each other and to act
together on peace and justice issues.
Then, of course, she is very support-
ive of her own family. Both lawyers,
her daughter and son-in law, who have
been married for 20 years, have recent-
ly moved from the tension of the city
in Haifa, to a kibbutz in the Galilee,
where their daughters face less dis-
crimination in school.
Like her mother, Pam and her hus-

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