Take a good look at the four people in the front row of this photo.
From left to right they are Maria Devinki of Kansas City, Felicia Graber of St. Louis, Zygie Allweiss of Detroit and Jerry Koenig of St. Louis.
This photo would have been impossible had each of these Jews not had non-Jewish help to survive the Holocaust. Because each one of them survived in Poland, non-Jews basically meant Catholic Christians, who risked their lives and the lives of their families to save Jews.
We invited Maria, Felicia, Zygie and Jerry to join us this past weekend for several launch events for the new book Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn (he's in the back row with me) and I have written, They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust. Although all of them could not be with us all weekend, each of them spoke this past Thursday evening at the Plaza branch of the Kansas City Library, when some 600 people showed up to hear about the book and hear their stories. In events Thursday, Friday and Sunday, a total of nearly 1,000 people showed up.
What a gratifying evening -- and weekend -- it was for us.
They are remarkable people. But what I invite you to think about is how the decisions made by their non-Jewish rescuers have affected the world. Maria has great-grandchildren. Felicia, a mother, spent a career teaching children. Zygie has grandchildren, as does Jerry. And there is so much more to their post-war stories.
The Talmud says that to save one life is to save the whole world.
We may never be asked to risk our lives to save the lives of others. But each hour of each day we can choose to behave in ways that repair the world. That's really what our new book is about.
(By the way, if you're on Facebook, search on "They Were Just People" and join our book's FB page, where some good conversation will take place over the upcoming months.)
* * *
A RELIGION NEWS DEPRESSION
Religion reporting is in a recession, this report says. Well, my take is that it's always been in a recession and now is moving toward a great depression -- just when it's needed most. But it won't get better unless the news-consuming public demands better. Have you complained about how little in the way of resources news organizations put into religion? If not, why not?