Tikkun olam—the legacy of Fred Amram

On February 13, I learned of the passing of my dear friend, Fred Amram. Many of you perhaps had the opportunity to meet Fred, as for the past five years, he has been a frequent guest and lecturer at the Haus. Fred was most notably known as a Holocaust survivor, eager to share his experience fleeing Germany after the Nazi invasion of his hometown, Hannover, and beginning a new life in the U.S. When sharing his story, Fred always challenged his audience to be up-standers, to notice grave injustices both locally and globally, and to have the courage to speak out and take action. At age 89, Fred was still a passionate voice for social justice. It is from him that I first learned of tikkun olam, a Jewish concept defined by acts of kindness performed to repair a broken world.

Fred was a wonderfully multifaceted person. He retired from the University of Minnesota as “Professor of Creativity.” In addition to teaching and writing, Fred was also an inventor. I had the privilege of trying on the Amram 5-in-1 Backpack, a backpack he designed for college students to better distribute the weight in their schoolbags while trekking across campus. Fred never stopped noticing problems he could help solve. 

I spoke with Fred just two weeks before he died. Our events team had a Zoom meeting with him where we started to plan how the GAI could honor Holocaust Remembrance this year. Fred was eager to lead a writing workshop, teaching participants how they could record their family’s heritage through storytelling. Fred’s memoir, We’re in America Now, a Survivor’s Stories, has been published and his wife Sandra Brick, a gifted textile and media artist, has created an accompanying exhibit, Lest We Forget, a Survivor’s Stories, recently on exhibit at the Twin Cities German Immersion School. We still plan to host the storytelling workshop with Sandra, likely this fall, knowing how pleased he would be that we too believe that every family’s story is worth saving and passing down to the next generation.

Jeana Anderson, GAI Executive Director


Communities for Ukraine updates

The outpouring of support from the GAI community has been impressive! We more than doubled our goal of $20,000, ending with a total of almost $50,000! The donations have already been used to buy appliances and stock food shelves, with weekly updates coming from the Bürgermeister’s office in Zell.

GAI Board Chair Danika Hoffmann visits Zell

We wanted to provide an update about what your donations have made possible in Zell, Germany—the small town along the Mosel river that has become a prime destination for Ukrainian refugees. 

Rhineland-Pfalz (the state in which Zell is located) has taken in over 40,000 Ukrainian refugees, nearly half of whom are children. Zell’s regional district (the Landkreis Cochem-Zell) is supporting more refugees per capita than any other region in the state. The donations from our GAI community have made a tangible impact on the area’s ability to provide safe shelter for refugees and their families.

GAI Board Chair Danika Hoffmann was in Zell in June to meet with Mayor Döpgen and see first-hand what your donations have made possible. 

In addition to the renovation and furnishing of homes, our donations have supported a new food shelf, organized and led by Zell’s Second Councillor Rosemarie Mandernach. Ms. Mandernach identified a centrally located space, stocked it with food staples, and staffed it to operate every Tuesday. Each week as the word spread about the food shelf more and more families arrived. 

It now serves over 150 families, many traveling to Zell by bus. In addition to critical staples like bread, canned goods and fruit, a chocolate bar is offered to every child—and last week there was an additional treat of American candy sent by the GAI. This food shelf is 100% supported by our donations, and because of your generosity the refugees can continue to count on this vital support.

The people of Zell—both Germans and Ukrainians—now know they have many friends in Minnesota, standing with them in steadfast solidarity and a call for peace.

June 18, 2022
Thanks from the community of  Zell

A note from Rosemarie Mandernach about the food shelf is one of many expressions of thanks from Zell: 

“We took care of more than 100 Ukrainian people, young ladies with children, old people, families with 5 or 6 members. All of them are very…grateful. We are very proud to do this kind of work [and] we are grateful [to you] too.”

Besides heartfelt thanks from the community of Zell, Bürgermeister Döpgen shared a touching letter written in German by Ksenia, a Ukrainian mom of two boys. She thanks him and the people of Zell for not only providing a much needed washing machine, but also for helping them feel welcome and making their world bright again. Read the full letter here.


GAI volunteers travel to Zell

In late May, two members of the GAI Haus & Grounds team, Marty and Penny Loso, arrived in Zell to help with apartment renovations. Marty updated us on their stay: “This morning we met the Baumeister, Franz-Josef Nolden. In our car, we followed him across the river to an old schoolhouse halfway up the hill. Penny and I are renovating about 8 rooms on the second floor. Today we stripped everything off of the walls, cleaned them, replaced trim and patched any holes (some small and some LARGE). Penny picked up and bagged lots of junk/litter, swept (several times) and washed windows. Tomorrow we begin to paint.”

GAI volunteer Penny Loso, Marga, Mayor Hans-Peter Döpgen, and Rosemarie Mandernach in the nearly complete apartment near the Rathaus.
Marty Logo patching a wall in an old schoolhouse being converted to apartments in Zell.