On Thursday, the B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem will conduct Holocaust remembrance ceremonies for the 13th consecutive year on Yom Hashoah.
One of the most noteworthy annual traditions has been honoring Jewish heroes who risked their lives to rescue other Jews during the Holocaust. This year's honoree is Rabbi Moshe Shimon Pessach, whose heroism saved hundreds of Greek Orthodox Jews during the Nazi occupation.
While his story is compelling, it is one of thousands considered by B'nai B'rith World Center Director Alan Schneider, who established a committee to help make the decision.
Arutz Sheva interviewed Schneider to discuss the difficult process of determining which stories to tell. Read highlights from the article below:
“There is in fact a lot of choice, but we're only able to tackle so many stories a year that we become aware of. So there is a process. On my desk now there are a number of stories that I have had to put aside for this year that I'll have to bring up in coming next years,” he said.
This week’s ceremony will honor Rabbi Moshe Pessach, who was instrumental in the rescue of the Volos Jewish community just days before their expected deportation by the Nazis.
It is a hard process, but the public recognition ceremonies that Schneider has initiated try to focus on Jewish heroes during World War II, awarding the Jewish Rescuers Citation in several ceremonies over the last few years. Sometimes it is a matter of how much a story can be further researched, who might represent the prospective honorees if they have passed away, or even how enveloping the story might be for listeners. In short, while Schneider says they are all worthy, he laments Bnai Brith’s resources are limited to organizing events around so many epic storytellings and presentations.
“We don't have the capacity to give each individual the attention they deserve, for us to become familiar with their story and bring it to the attention of the people.”
“We’ve recognized well over 100 individuals but we know thousands of Jews were involved in rescuing other Jews during the Holocaust. We have a database that includes some of those people. In some countries the documentation is better – France and Hungary for instance – where Jewish organizations formed after the Holocaust have done a lot of the research and brought the stories in both cases of Jews involved in the rescue of Jews.”
B'nai Brith has been running a series of special ceremonies on Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel for the last 13 years. Greece tends not to be on the radar for popular Holocaust history – unlike Poland for instance. When asked if the goal was to find more obscure chronicles and shine a light on those, Schneider says yes.
“We've tried to find also lesser known stories like Rabbi Pessach’s of Volos.”
“We're focusing on his but we are honoring others from Hungary and Greece. His story in particular is not very well-known at all (at least in Israel), so we thought it would be appropriate to focus our ceremony on him," said Schneider.