The call came in, the invitation was extended, the response was immediate and affirmative. Edwin Black, internationally acclaimed and best-selling investigative author invited students from Rambam Mesivta in Lawrence to join him in launching International Farhud Day at the United Nations.
While everyone is aware of the Holocaust that targeted European Jewry, few were aware that Nazi collaborators in Iraq massacred the Jewish population of Baghdad in their desire to eliminate the Jewish presence in that country. Black, a periodic columnist for The Jewish Star, presented the history of Farhud on The Star’s front page last month.
Students from Rambam, who are well-known for their activism in general and concern for commemorating the Holocaust in particular, made the trek to the city to participate in this historic event. Organizers and speakers at the event included Alyza Lewin of the international Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists; Rabbi Elie Abadie of Justice for Jews from Arab countries; Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice President of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organization, and Israeli Representative to the UN David Roet.
Speakers pointed out that the Jewish community in Baghdad lived in relative peace for over 2,500 years. They flourished in Arab lands until the fateful day of June 1, 1941 — Chag HaShavous — when Arab mobs, inspired by Nazi ideology, massacred hundreds, injured thousands, and destroyed countless synagogues and Jewish businesses.
Lewin who along with her illustrious father, Nathan, is at the forefront of pursuing high-profile cases that represent Judaism and Jewish ideals, spoke passionately about the need to publicize the flight of the oppressed Sephardic community that was forcibly exiled from Arab countries in 1948. She said that approximately 850,000 Jews were forced to leave everything behind and run for their lives. Amazingly, she said, “the Jewish refugees did not dwell in victimhood,” rather they went to Israel, built the country and led productive lives.