Fighting Ignorance With Knowledge, Prejudice With Empathy

Written by Kol HaBirah Staff on . Posted in Arts & Entertainment

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recognized seven individuals at the 24th Annual ADL In Concert Against Hate, held Nov. 8 at the at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The recipients of the Kay Family Award are individuals who work to bring communities together in response to bigotry, injustice and extremism – using their experiences as catalysts to build a better world.

The first ADL In Concert Against Hate was held in 1995 as a special event to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Holocaust. The concert honored the memory of four individuals who rescued Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust. Response to the concert was so strong that what was intended to be a one-time experience was transformed into an annual tradition that bring thousands together to be inspired by the stories of contemporary heroes.

The award recipients for 2018 came from diverse backgrounds and were emblematic of multiple causes capturing the American public and Jewish community’s attentions today:

Derek Black, a member of one the most prominent white nationalist families in the country, and Matthew Stevenson, his Jewish classmate and friend. Amid student uproar over Black’s presence on their college campus, Stevenson invited him to join one of his Shabbat gatherings so that he could interact with people that the white nationalist ideology vilified.

Remarkably, Black became a regular at Shabbat dinner; and through long and sometimes painful conversations with these new friends, his outlook on the world and the ideology he was promoting changed. Black renounced the white nationalist movement in 2013 and has spent the years since coming to terms with his identity.

Eva Kor, a Holocaust survivor and one of the few “Mengele twins” still alive today. She has devoted her life to helping educate individuals about the Holocaust, forming both a nonprofit and a museum in Indiana dedicated to the cause. In 2003, the museum was firebombed by an arsonist and burned to the ground. With support from the community, a new museum opened in 2005 and remains an important part of the community.

Susan Bro, whose daughter, Heather Heyer, was killed during the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.Bro co-founded the Heather Heyer Foundation and works to bring about positive social change through the education and training of the next generation of activists, advocates, and allies.

Father Patrick Desbois, a Catholic priest and an international scholar dedicated to uncovering stories of the Holocaust and furthering relations between Catholics and Jews. He is a Georgetown University professor as well as the founder and president of the international organization Yahad-In Unum. Dedicated to documenting evidence of the Holocaust, Yahad-In Unum has interviewed 6,171 eyewitnesses of Nazi executions of Jews and Roma, and identified 2,546 execution sites across Eastern Europe.

Rais Bhuiyan, an American Muslim who was shot from point blank range by a white supremacist in Dallas 10 days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Though the shooting left him partially blind in his right eye, Bhuiyan forgave his shooter and started a campaign to save his attacker from death row.

Bhuiyan’s experience encouraged him to establish a nonprofit, World Without Hate, which works internationally to promote “the transformational power of forgiveness, embracing compassion and mercy, and teaching others the beauty of acceptance and empathy.”

Maria Gabriela “Gaby” Pacheco, an advocate for immigration reform. In 2010, alongside three other undocumented students, Gaby led the Trail of Dreams, a four-month walk from Miami to Washington, D.C., to call attention to the plight of immigrant families under the threat of deportation. In 2012, as political director for United We Dream, she spearheaded the efforts that led to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program; and in 2013 she became the first undocumented Latina to testify before the U.S. Congress, addressing the Senate Judiciary Committee about the need for immigration reform.

 By Kol HaBirah Staff