April 2017 -- Nisan-Iyar 5777,  Volume 23, Issue 4

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Commemorating the Holocaust with Documentary

At 10:30 am, Westchester Jewish Center (WJC) invites all community members to a film screening of the award-winning docudrama Disobedience: The Sousa Mendes Story on Yom HaShoah,  Sunday, April 23 at the synagogue located at  Palmer and  Rockland Avenues, Mamaroneck.

 

Two WJC members, who are relatives of those Sousa Mendes saved, will be present to share their family’s experiences and how the heroic actions of this “righteous gentile” made their current lives possible.

 

White Plains resident  and WJC member Miriam Turkel, a daughter of those who received visas from Sousa Mendes, described his heroism:  “Despite overwhelming political pressure, Sousa Mendes put God’s commandments above the dictates of man, and signed the visas that saved my parents. My brother and I would not be alive today were it not for his heroism.  The Sousa Mendes story deserves to be heard by all.”

 

Another long time WJC member, Josette Nelson, her parents and two brothers, received visas from Sousa Mendes when she was 5 years old.  Nelson’s daughter, Dina Nelson (also a WJC member) will read a testimonial written by her late uncle.

 

The film Disobedience tells the dramatic true story of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese consul stationed in Bordeaux, France during World War II. When the Nazis invaded in 1940, Sousa Mendes granted Portuguese visas to thousands of refugees against the strict orders of his government, in a feat described by historian Yehuda Bauer as “perhaps the largest rescue action by a single individual during the Holocaust.”  As a result of his act of conscience, Sousa Mendes was punished by his government for “disobedience,” stripped of his position, and blacklisted.  He died in 1954 in poverty and disgrace.

 

In 1966, Sousa Mendes was posthumously recognized as a “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust authority.  The Portuguese government eventually honored Sousa Mendes in the 1980s, as a result of pressure from the US government.

 

The Sousa Mendes Foundation, founded in 2010, is dedicated to honoring the memory of Aristides de Sousa Mendes and to teaching the importance of moral courage in a civilized world.  Named “Organization of the Year” in 2012 by The Portuguese Tribune, the Foundation is engaged in a worldwide search for families who escaped the Holocaust through Portugal.

 

For information, contact, Pat Tinto, WJC Director of Communications, 698-2960; for more information on de Sousa Mendes, contact: Robert Jacobvitz, (877) 797-9759 or robert@sousamendesfoundation.org.