Bham Honors Muslims Who Helped Jews; BJF Nominating Time

TWO FACES OF THE HOLOCAUST

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Below is a great story on Albania's Muslims saving Jews during the Holocaust. It's one of the relatively few inspiring stories to come out of that dark era during which Adolph Hitler and his Nazis murdered 6,000,000 Jews and millions of others.

At the same time, a story posted this weekend by the New York Times, forwarded to us by past Birmingham Jewish Foundation President Brenda Weinstein, gives new insight into the Holocaust. Headlined "The Holocaust Just Got More Shocking," the story highlights new documentation about the catastrophe that befell our Jewish brethren in Europe when they were defenseless, at the mercy of Nazi hatred and madness, and had no place to go that would provide them safe refuge.

Graphic is of the Nazi swastika.

MUSLIMS HELPED JEWS DURING HOLOCAUST

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Birmingham's YMCA, in conjunction with The Birmingham Jewish Federation and other organizations, is sponsoring a photographic exhibit at The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute entitled, "BESA: Muslims Helping Jews in World War II."

The exhibit and accompanying book was developed by photographer Norman Gershman, and the stories accompanying the photographs are extremely moving. They tell the story of Muslims in Albania helping Jewish families escape the Nazi Holocaust. The exhibit will be at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute starting March 5 at 5 pm and will continue into June. (Consult the Civil Rights Institute for more information.)

During World War II, Albanian Muslims, at grave risk to themselves and their families, not only sheltered the Jews of their cities and villages but also thousands of Jews fleeing the Nazis from other European countries.

Over a five year period, Gershman visited Albania several times to record stories and photograph these heroic people and their families. His work documented their unwavering commitment to the longstanding Albanian principle of Besa, which means taking care of those in need and being hospitable. "They will lay their lives down for anybody," explained Gershman.

Although there were not too many Jews living in Albania at the time, many fled to Albania in search of safety. During World War II, there were only two countries in Europe "that actively refused to cooperate with the Nazis: Denmark and Albania," said Gershman. Through the efforts of the Albanians, more than 2000 Jews were saved.

Notes Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Memorial, "Albania, the only European country with a Muslim majority, succeeded in the place where other European nations failed. Almost all Jews living within Albanian borders during the German occupation, those of Albanian origin and refugees alike, were saved ....Impressively, there were more Jews in Albania at the end of the war than beforehand."

The BJF is proud to be associated with this wonderful commemoration and recounting of this unique story. We remain committed to perpetuating the stories of those who saved Jews at great personal risk.

Photo is of Albanian Muslim Lime Balla who helped save Jews during the Holocaust. Yad Vashem has recognized Lime and her husband Destan Balla as "Righteous Among the Nations" -- an honor accorded those who helped to save Jews during the Holocaust.

NOMINATING TIME

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Nominations are being sought for The Birmingham Jewish Federation's Board of Directors. As part of this process, The BJF invites community members to suggest names for our Nominating Committee to consider.

For criteria and information on how to nominate someone, please contact BJF Director of Operations Lauren Pyle Klinner at 803-1517 or laurenp@bjf.org. People are welcome to nominate themselves. There are limited openings. The deadline for submitting nominations is Sunday, March 10.

The BJF Board is comprised of a cross-section of community volunteers who are committed to the work of the Federation and support its fundraising efforts. The board hears reports, oversees activities and policies of the BJF and makes decisions regarding the allocation of funds. Amy Saag, past president of The BJF, is chair of the Nominating Committee.

FEDERATION-AFFILIATED AGENCYMAKING AMERICA MORE SECURE

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The national Jewish community's security arm took part in a recent White House conference on creating a model emergency plan for schools and houses of worship.

Paul Goldenberg, the national director of the Secure Community Network, which is affiliated with the Jewish Federations of North America, joined law enforcement, education and faith leaders at the White House event. It was called "Taking Action: Creating Model Emergency Management Plans for Schools, Institutions of Higher Education, and Houses of Worship."

The event was derived from a series of executive orders issued by President Obama in the wake of the massacre of school children in Connecticut in December. It included addresses by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and a top FBI official. Also attending were survivors of gun violence.

"What I emphasized is that the Jewish community was compelled to engage because over the last decade we've seen an unprecedented number of planned attacks against Jewish communities here in the United States," said Goldenberg.

Goldenberg, who is a vice chairman of the Department of Homeland Security's Faith-Based Homeland Security Committee, said a Jewish community model was now being emulated by other faith communities.

The Birmingham Jewish Federation continues to monitor security closely. Just this past week, a package that at first appeared suspicious was mailed to the Federation. Fortunately, it was a false alarm and everything turned out fine. However, it gave us and other agencies on our Montclair Road campus a chance to test our response system.

Above is from Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a worldwide Jewish news service which receives funding from The BJF Annual Campaign.