The event attracted prominent individuals from the local community and beyond. Emcee for the evening was popular media personality and author Michael Reagan who also delivered the event’s keynote address. He is the son of former U.S. president Ronald Reagan. One of the first to address the crowd, Rabbi GershonTannenbaum, offered a summary of Wallenberg’s life and deeds. With numerous relatives whose lives had been saved by the Swedish diplomat, Tannenbaum testified to his “direct connection to the Wallenberg impact.” Tannenbaum went on to tell the harrowing true story of a man who frequently found himself on the wrong end of Nazi guns, and despite the constant threats and harassment (and even an assassination attempt!) “didn’t flinch.” This was a man, notes Tannenbaum, who was born into an affluent Swedish family, the equivalent of “a Rockefeller or a Kennedy,” who nonetheless abandoned a life of luxury and put his own neck on the line to save lives during the Holocaust. “I can think of no other man in history who single-handedly saved so many human lives,” said Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum, a Wallenberg scholar and Aleh Foundation board Member. http://www.alehfoundationusa.org/
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One of the evening’s highlights was the speech by media personality Michael Reagan. Reagan recounted how his father praised Wallenberg as a man who truly understood the meaning of human rights, being someone who was “willing to plant a tree knowing that he will never sit under it.” He went on to stress the need for “more Wallenbergs”
Rabbi Shlomo Braun, Founder and Director of the Aleh Foundation invited Michael Reagan to the upcoming Aleh Foundation Awards Dinner www.alehfoundationusa.org to be held on May 21, 2014 and he was excited to attend.
The most heart-stopping moment of the evening came when Rabbi Shlomo Hochberg looked across the room and said, “If there had been 60 Raoul Wallenbergs during World War II there would have been no Holocaust.”
Vera Koppel, 76, is one of those whom Wallenberg saved. She was just 8 years old when she, her brother and her parents were forced by Nazis out of their suburban Budapest home and into an apartment house in the inner city with a large yellow Star of David painted on the front door. Koppel related the tangible fear during the Holocaust. Raised in a religious family in Budapest, her family tried to emigrate to Israel but was stuck in Hungary. In 1944 her father was taken to a concentration camp, while she was taken to a so-called ‘working camp” close to the town Danube designated for Jews with her mother.
“My father and brother were taken out to work camps,” she says. “We never saw them again. But my mother and I were fortunate that Raoul Wallenberg gave us each a ‘Schutz Pass’ guaranteeing safe passage by the neutral Swedish government.”
Three times a day, the Nazis, with their boots, came up to examine their papers. The buildings in Europe had high, long, marble staircases and when Nazis came with their boots everyone’s heart was beating afraid of what was going to happen. When they discovered a family that had forged papers they took away the family, and were never seen again. Koppel is familiar with the beautiful song about the Blue Danube that everyone all over the world sings. She said that in194 there was no Blue Danube, it was only red from all the Jews’ blood. http://www.vosizneias.com/
Koppel related that one morning they were told “wear your warmest clothes.” They got dressed, and she was the shortest child, the first one in the line and a policeman was holding her hand. By a miracle he let go of her hand for a minute, and was grabbed by her mother who was not wearing a star at that time and they ran away. ISRAELNATIONALNEWS.com (http://bit.ly/
If not for Raul Wallenberg, am sure not my mother or myself would be here and it means not my son, not my grandchildren, and all the generations that are coming, because he gave us a safe place. And that’s why she’s grateful forever to Raoul Wallenberg.
Rabbi Shlomo Braun is the Founder and Director of the Aleh Foundation located at 5317 13th Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11219. http://www.prlog.org/
Please join friends of Aleh Foundation in recognizing the heroic efforts of our distinguished honorees at the Awards Dinner on May 21, 2014. http://www.jewocity.com/