RELIGION AND VIRGINIA TECH
Like NBC's Middle East correspondent, I acknowledge being mystified by the religious connections to the Virginia Tech mass murderer. I think this is one of those profoundly complex stories that we won't be able to sort out for a long time, if ever. To leap in with theories based on fragments of information might be what we expect of talk radio, but I think the rest of us should have higher standards.
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HELPING THOSE WHO HELPED JEWS
NEW YORK -- One of the stops I made here while doing research on the Holocaust book a rabbi and I are writing is the Jewish Federation for the Righteous, which has its headquarters in Manhattan.
Essentially, the agency raises money to help give financial support to "righteous gentiles" who saved Jews from death in the Holocaust. Currently it helps support 1,330 righteous gentiles in 27 countries.
Many of these "rescuers" (a problematic term that makes it sound as if the Jews did nothing to help themselves) are poor people from rural areas in Poland and other countries, and the money they get from the JFR ($100 a month is a typical grant) helps a great deal to provide necessary food and medicines for them in their old age.
It's likely that the number of "righteous" receiving help will dwindle to close to zero in the next 10 to 15 years as that generation dies off. As that happens, the Stanlee Joyce Stahl, the JFR's energetic leader, says the agency will move increasingly into putting its efforts toward educating people about this often under-reported aspect of the Holocaust. (We hope our book, focused on Poland, will help with that.)
The photo here today shows Stanlee with my book-writing partner, Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn of the New Reform Temple of Kansas City. (E-mail me if you want to know how to help with our book work.)
There are so many aspects of this horrific event called the Holocaust that it's hard to know where to begin educating one's self. But as the larger story is told, it's important also to describe the few non-Jews who had the moral courage to do the right thing.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My column tomorrow will focus on religious aspects of the 2008 presidential race.)