The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee Campus
The event celebrates the rescue of thousands of European Jews by Muslim Albanians during World War II.
(Sarasota-Manatee) Floreta Faber, the Albanian ambassador to the United States, will be the special guest of honor at The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 29. This year’s program, which begins at 3 p.m., celebrates Albania, a country that played a key role in saving Jewish lives during the Holocaust. During the event, Dr. Anna Kohen, a local resident who was instrumental in coordinating the ambassador’s visit, and Yael Hershfield, the senior associate regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, will present the Anti-Defamation League’s “Courage to Care” award to Ms. Faber. This award honors rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust era. The program also features the short documentary film, “Rescue in Albania,” and traditional Albanian dancing by the Albanian Heritage Foundation of Tampa. The event is free and open to the public at the Beatrice Friedman Theater on the campus of The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, 580 McIntosh Road, Sarasota. To register for this event, visit https://jfedsrq.org/community-calendar/jfsm-international-holocaust-remembrance-day or call 866-465-3995.
In 1930, there were only 24 Jews living in Albania. By 1937, this number increased to 300, and the Albanian embassy in Berlin continued to issue visas to Jews until the end of 1938, while no other country in Europe was willing to. When the Holocaust began, thousands of Jews took refuge in Albania, where they faced little anti-Semitism compared to other countries in Europe. By the end of World War II, there were an estimated 1,800 Jews living in Albania. Following the German occupation in 1943, the Albanian population, in an extraordinary act, refused to comply with the occupier’s orders to turn over lists of Jews residing within the country’s borders. Moreover, the various governmental agencies provided many Jewish families with fake documentation, which allowed them to intermingle amongst the rest of the population. The Albanians, most of whom were of the Muslim faith, not only protected their Jewish citizens, but also provided sanctuary to Jewish refugees who had arrived in Albania, when it was still under Italian rule, and now found themselves faced with the danger of deportation to concentration camps. The remarkable assistance afforded to the Jews was grounded in besa, a code of honor, which still today serves as the highest ethical code in the country. Besa means, literally, “to keep the promise.” One who acts according to besa is someone who keeps his word, someone to whom one can trust one’s life and the lives of one’s family.
The United Nations General Assembly designated January 27—the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this annual day of commemoration, the UN urges every member state to honor the victims of the Nazi era and to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocides.
About The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee
The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to save Jewish lives and enhance Jewish life in the Sarasota-Manatee region, in Israel, and throughout the world. In addition, the Federation is responsive when worldwide catastrophes occur. For more information, call 941-371-4546 or visit www.jfedsrq.org.