Holocaust Heroes; "With Great Help, Almost Anything Can Be Done"
FEDERATIONS ADVOCATE FOR HOLOCAUST HERO
By being part of the North American Jewish Federation movement, The Birmingham Jewish Federation expands the reach and impact of the Birmingham Jewish community. The below story, from Jewish Telegraphic Agency, offers one more example of the impact of our national Jewish Federation movement.
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- The U.S. Senate has voted unanimously to award Raoul Wallenberg the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award given by the Congress. The vote last week was part of an effort to confer the honor upon Wallenberg in time for the 100th anniversary of his birth in August.
The US House of Representatives unanimously approved awarding the medal in April. The measure now goes to President Obama for his signature.
"Raoul Wallenberg's courageous actions were a shining example of selfless heroism at a time when others stood mute in the face of unimaginable horror," said Kathy Manning, chairwoman of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America, which was among the groups advocating for the medal. "That this legislation passed with such broad bipartisan support is a reflection of how deserving Raoul Wallenberg is of the Congressional Gold Medal," she added.
A broad range of Jewish community groups convened as the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Commission to advocate for the recognition. Wallenberg, a neutral Swedish diplomat in Budapest during the German occupation in 1944, issued Swedish travel documents -- known as "Wallenberg passports" -- to at least 20,000 Jews and also set up more than 30 safe houses for Jews. Other neutral diplomats collaborated in the effort.
The details of Wallenberg's fate have remained a mystery. He disappeared while being escorted out of Hungary toward the Soviet Union. The Soviets claimed that he died of a heart attack in 1957, but other evidence indicated that he was killed in Lubyanka prison or that he may have lived years longer.
The Congressional Gold Medal has been conferred since the American Revolution to honor "the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions." It was first awarded to George Washington. Awardees need not be Americans. Past honorees include Simon Wiesenthal, the Nazi hunter; Natan and Avital Sharansky, who led activism on behalf of Soviet Jews; the Dalai Lama; and Burmese democracy movement leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
THEY RISKED THEIR LIVES TO SAVE JEWS
Speaking of Holocaust heroes, Poles who helped save Jews during the Holocaust were honored in Warsaw Sunday at a moving tribute.
"For decades, nobody really talked about them: the thousands of Poles, mostly Roman Catholics, who risked their lives during World War II to save Jewish friends, neighbors and even strangers," the Associated Press reported in its coverage of the event.
"Those discovered by the Germans were executed quickly, often with their entire families. And then, under communism, there was silence. The Jewish survivors would send letters and gifts in gratitude. But the Polish state ignored the rescuers. And they themselves kept quiet, out of modesty, or shame or fear of anti-Semitism," the story added.
"That era is over," the report continued. "A moving gathering of dozens of the rescuers on Sunday in Warsaw shows just how much has changed in Poland in the 23 years since communism fell. Dozens of Polish rescuers were celebrated and dined over a kosher lunch in an upscale hotel where Jewish representatives took turns praising them in speeches for their heroism."
The Birmingham Jewish Federation, which provides funding to the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center and coordinates a community Holocaust remembrance annually, believes it's important to remember these heroes who risked their lives to save Jews and to be grateful for their extraordinary courage.
Photo is of Yad Vashem's Garden of the Righteous. Yad Vashem is Israel's Holocaust memorial and the garden is that section which honors non-Jewish people who rescued Jews during the Holocaust.
'WITH GREAT HELP, ALMOST ANYTHING CAN BE DONE'
Operation Grassroots is an unprecedented Birmingham Jewish Federation fundraising effort to raise 1000 new gifts or increases of at least $100 to receive a $100,000 challenge gift.
The anonymous donor who is providing the $100,000 remains tuned in daily to our progress and is very pleased by our success so far. Our most recent Grassroots milestone occurred June 28 when we raised our 500th Operation Grassroots gift. Our goal was to be at 500 by June 30th -- half way through, half way through the year.
"Yes!!" this donor wrote back upon receiving an email with the good news. "This is a great achievement and certainly with great help, almost anything can be done. Glad to be part of it!"
This person's probably right -- and that's a great philosophy for life. We sure are seeing it with Operation Grassroots. The more people who pitch in by making a new gift or increase of at least $100, and who then step forward to ask others, the closer we will get to 1000.
If you haven't yet participated in Operation Grassroots, please consider doing so by going to the link below or contacting Tiffany Hyche at The BJF at 205-803-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you'd like to become part of the growing number of people who are asking others for Operation Grassroots gifts, especially out of town friends and family, email us at email@example.com and we will send you a sample email that has worked successfully.