The Jewish Observer,
WJC AND ALBANIAN MISSION TO UN HOLD SPECIAL BRIEFING ON RESCUE OF ALBANIAN JEWS DURING HOLOCAUST
CEO David Estrin, WJC CEO & EVP Robert Singer, Anna Kohen, WJC President Ronald S. Lauder, Albanian Envoy to UN Besiana Kadare, UN Under-Sec-Gen. for Global Communications Alison Smale & Ex Dir. of Eye Contact Foundation Majlinda Myrto. (c) Shahar Azran
The World Jewish Congress, the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Albania to the United Nations, and the UN’s Department of Global Communications hosted a special briefing at the UN headquarters in New York on Thursday, as part of International Holocaust Remembrance Day Commemorations, recalling Albania’s moral courage in rescuing the Jews of its country during World War II.
WJC President Lauder said the only way to fight anti-Semitism in 2019 is leadership – if our political leaders don’t lead the fight, we have to.
The briefing was moderated by Alison Smale, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, and featured poignant speeches by WJC President Ronald S. Lauder, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Albania Besiana Kadare, and WJC CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer, among others.
WJC President Lauder said in his address: “When almost every country in Europe appeased the Nazis, gave in to the Nazis, and even helped the Nazis, Albania was the only country occupied by the Axis where the Jewish population was larger after the war than before it started… Human decency is part of it, but courage is a major component, and so is leadership. Most people don’t act alone, they follow the dictates of their leaders.
Today, 74 years after the war, we are seeing the resurgence of antisemitism again. And once again there is a real leadership vacuum in our world today, and that is very dangerous... Leading up to World War II, the world was indifferent to the plight of the Jews in Europe and look what happened. Today, we see the same indifference once again. When it is now politically acceptable for candidates to run on an anti-Israel and antisemitic platform, and have no political leaders call them out on it. That is indifference. That is silence. And that is not acceptable."
Albanian Ambassador Kadare said: “As we solemnly mourn the millions of innocent people killed by the Nazis, among which six million Jews, let’s also reflect on the lives that were saved by righteous individuals who refused to be bystanders during those tragic times. The story of the Albanian protection of Jews during the Holocaust is both exceptional and inspiring. Simply put, it’s a quintessential story of humanity, a legacy of civility, and a lesson for future generations.”
In her opening remarks, UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications Smale said: “The Albanian response [to the Holocaust] embodies the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that ‘everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.’ The Albanian response also raises challenging questions about the responsibility incumbent on all to demand and defend human rights, identify strategies that best protect those rights, and learn the consequences of inaction.”
The panel discussion also featured remarks by Majlinda Myrto, the Executive Director of Eye Contact Foundation, David Estrin, founder of the Together We Remember youth organization, and Anna Kohen, a Holocaust survivor whose family was among those rescued by the Albanians. Distinguished guests included Congressman Eliot Engel, who is also Chairman of the International Council on Foreign Relations operating under the auspices of the WJC, Israel Consul General in NY Ambassador Dani Dayan, Acting US Ambassador to the UN Jonathan Cohen, and Imam Dr. Tahir Kukiqi of the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center of Staten Island.
This briefing was one of eight events being organized by the United Nations Holocaust Program to mark the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, and one in a series of briefings organized weekly by the United Nations Department of Global Communications Civil Society Unit.
DANON AND 40 UN ENVOYS VISIT AISH HATORAH: THE EMBASSY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE
JERUSALEM -- Aish HaTorah hosted Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, and 40 UN Ambassadors for a tour and banquet luncheon as part of their 5-day visit to Israel in conjunction with the March of the Living and the American Zionist Movement.
Rabbi Steven Burg, CEO of Aish, welcomed the UN dignitaries to the Aish World Center, “the embassy of the Jewish people opposite the Western Wall where thousands of guests of all faiths come every year to learn about the Jewish Heritage and Jewish values.”
Rabbi Burg added, “Aish’s core value, which is Judaism’s core value, is love; and taking responsibility for the world. We are open all the time for anyone, from any nation around the world to experience the power of Torah wisdom.” Rabbi Burg thanked the delegation for their support of Israel. “I’m here with a group of heroes, I really look up to all of you and all the work that you do to keep the world at peace.”
Rabbi Etiel Goldwicht, Director of Aish Israel, gave a historical overview of Jerusalem from the Aish rooftop, with its panoramic view of the Temple Mount, Western Wall, and surrounding mountains. The Ambassadors viewed the short film “Reality” produced by longtime Aish partner and supporter, Marc Goldman, which expresses the importance of following the Bible’s wisdom to ensure the spiritual and physical survival of humanity
“The Aish Dan Family World Center is a magnet that draws dignitaries and individuals from all over the world to come and get connected to Israel. Anyone who comes to Aish leaves more committed and passionate to their heritage then they did when they arrived.” said Ariel Kotler, Executive Director of Aish.
Aish is a global platform that fosters individual and communal Jewish responsibility by building connections to Jews, Jewish learning and the Jewish homeland. Founded by the late Rabbi Noah Weinberg, OBM in 1974, today Aish HaTorah has 35 branches worldwide, engaging over 150,000 people per year and reaching over a million people online.
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ISRAEL'S PM NETANYAHU SIGNS DEALS WITH CHAD'S
Chad President Idriss Deby (r) welcomes Israel's PM Benjamin Netanyahu to Chad
CHAD, Africa -- Chad and Israel have renewed diplomatic ties in what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described as "a partnership... to forge a prosperous and secure future for our countries".
His comments came during a brief visit to Chad where he was welcomed by President Idriss Deby. In recent years, Israel has made a big effort to improve diplomatic relations with several African countries.
Chad, which has a majority Muslim population, cut ties in 1972. Mr Netanyahu's visit reciprocates President Deby's trip to Israel last November, the first by a Chadian leader. In addition to renewing diplomatic ties the two leaders signed several agreements, Mr Deby told a joint press conference, but did not say what those deals were.
"The purpose of your visit is to bring our two countries closer and to cooperate," he told Mr Neytanyahu, the Haaretz newspaper reports. Chad is interested in "security, intelligence, technology and a pathway to Washington", writes Jerusalem Post diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon.
For his part, the Israeli prime minister is trying to separate the peace process with the Palestinians from relations with majority-Muslim countries, Mr Keinon adds.
In 2016, Mr Netanyahu became the first Israeli premier to visit Africa in nearly three decades, with a trip to Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda. A year later he attended a meeting in Liberia of heads of state from the West African regional group, Ecowas. But an Israel-Africa summit that was supposed to take place in Togo in October 2017 was cancelled.—BBCi
BRUSSELS JEWISH MUSEUM ATTACK: FAKE GUN LEFT FOR LAWYER
The lawyer for an 81-year-old woman who survived a gun attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels has been burgled and left a threatening fake rifle, he says. Vincent Lurquin's laptop and files were stolen from his Brussels office, and in their place he found a baseball bat and replica Kalashnikov.
The "targeted" burglary comes weeks into the ongoing trial of the suspected gunman, Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche. Four people were killed in the anti-Semitic attack on the museum in 2014.
Mr Nemmouche denies charges of terrorist murder, and faces a life sentence if convicted. He allegedly fought in a jihadist group in Syria's war before returning to Europe and carrying out the museum slaughter. One of the files stolen from Mr Lurquin relates to the trial. The lawyer said he would not be intimidated by Wednesday's incident.
"We will continue to help [jurors] judge without hatred, without fear," he told Belgian media. "Those who want to frighten us will not succeed."
Prosecutors have opened an investigation for "burglary and threats using symbols". On 24 May 2014, a lone gunman entered the lobby of the Jewish Museum in Brussels. He opened fire on those inside and fled within a couple of minutes.
Prosecutors say Mr Nemmouche carried out the attack using a Kalashnikov rifle and a handgun. Two Israeli tourists, a French volunteer and a Belgian receptionist were killed. He was arrested six days later in Marseille, in southern France, as he got off a bus. He was carrying two guns believed to have been used in the attack.
Mr Lurquin's client, 81-year-old Chilean artist Clara Billeke Villalobos, has told the court she has remained "in a state of numbness" since the ordeal almost five years ago. Another Frenchman, Nacer Bendrer, is also on trial, accused of providing the weapons used in the shooting.
Mr Nemmouche is of Franco-Algerian origin and from the northern French city of Roubaix, near the border with Belgium. He was previously known to French authorities, having served five years in prison for robbery. He is said to have met Mr Bendrer while in prison. Both have been described as "radicali[z]ed" prisoners. Mr Nemmouche travelled to Syria in 2013 for one year, during which time it is alleged he fought for a jihadist group in the country's civil war. Investigators say that while there, he met Najim Laachraoui, who was a suicide bomber in the Brussels airport attack of March 2016, which killed 32 people.
Four French people held hostage in Syria allege that they were guarded by both Laachraoui and Mr Nemmouche during their captivity. Links have also been drawn between Laachraoui's group and the one which carried out the Paris bombings of November 2015. Mr Nemmouche was extradited to Belgium to face charges connected to the museum shooting, but may also face trial in France over the allegations he was involved in the French prisoner's captivity. --BBCi
HOLOCAUST: POLISH POLICE PROBE AUSCHWITZ
Polish police have asked prosecutors to examine evidence against ultra-nationalists who demonstrated at Auschwitz on Holocaust Memorial Day. Police sent them video of the group, estimated at 70-100, who marched with big Polish flags at the notorious Nazi death camp site on Sunday.
The protesters were led by Piotr Rybak, who was convicted in 2015 for publicly burning an effigy representing a Jew. The Nazis murdered nearly 1m Jews and 150,000 non-Jewish Poles at Auschwitz. The main commemoration at Auschwitz on Sunday involved Jewish survivors and Polish government officials. About half of the Jews murdered in the Holocaust were Polish. There were many other victims of Nazi Germany at Auschwitz too, including Soviet prisoners-of-war and Gypsies (Roma). The colossal death toll has been documented by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, among others. The ultra-nationalist march on Sunday took place away from the main commemoration at the site.
It is reported to be the first such protest at the site on one of the most solemn days for Jews worldwide. Rybak, quoted by Reuters news agency, told his supporters: "The Jewish nation and Israel is doing everything to change the history of the Polish nation. Polish patriots cannot allow this."
Police said on Twitter that they had analyzed material collected, "including recordings and photos from the assembly of Piotr Rybak", and sent the evidence to the district prosecutor's office. They gave no details about the evidence collected. Research shows that some Poles participated in the Holocaust, but many other Poles risked their lives to save Jews. --BBCi