Israel Honors Poles Determined to Preserve Jewish Memory

Israeli Embassy in Poland joins award of local figures responsible for preservation of Jewish heritage sites in Poland, as well as programs of education and information promoting better understanding between Poles and Jews.

This year marks the fourteenth time that a group of Polish heroes engaged in projects preserving and recalling the memory of the Jewish nation in Poland are being honored at ceremonies in Krakow, with a ceremony anticipated in Warsaw for the first time.

The honors program was initiated in 1998 and the Israeli Embassy in Poland was invited to be a key participant in presenting certificates of appreciation to each of the Polish awardees.

A plaque is placed by March of the Living participants on railway tracks at Auschwitz near Oswiecim, Poland, May 2, 2011.

That such acknowledgment comes from the Embassy of the Jewish state and is presented personally by its ambassador, is particularly meaningful and important. The ceremonies are followed by a luncheon which is co-sponsored through the generosity of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, an organization responsible for the reclamation and preservation of much of the Jewish heritage sites in Poland, as well as programs of education and information promoting better understanding between Poles and Jews.

Year after year, the program has depended upon the genius and charm of one of Poland's leading historians, Jan Jagielski of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.

Jagielski reviews all nominations of individuals and projects to be awarded diplomas and contributes one of the most critical parts of the extended ceremony preparations.

But he is in good company, working among many others who support the ceremonies and the honor luncheon, including the Galicja Museum in Krakow, where the ceremonies have been held in recent years; Krakow's Eden Hotel, which has assisted with logistics and catering, and the JCC of Krakow which, over the last few years, has generously provides a venue for the luncheon.

As the initiator and founder of this program, I feel the most important individuals responsible for these ceremonies are, of course, the honorees themselves whose work gives us inspiration and enables us to tell the true story of the modern Republic of Poland, its people and the nature of its society.

But even beyond that, while we remember the destroyed communities and Churban which the Germans of the Third Reich created in the murderous Holocaust of the Jewish nation in Poland and elsewhere in Europe. It is of no little significance that the awards are presented on behalf of the Third Commonwealth, the State of Israel - the modern, democratic, free, Jewish state - which makes all of us proud and causes our grief of loss of our people in the Shoah, to be even more powerful when celebrating the miracle of Jewish redemption.

The fourteenth anniversary awards shall be presented to:

1. Mr Robert Augustyniak, Grodzisk Mazowiecki & Mr Grzegorz BenedykciÅski, Mayor of Grodzisk Mazowiecki
& Stowarzyszenie "Europa i My ("Europe and us Association), Grodzisk Mazowiecki
2. Mr Krzysztof BagiÅski, Knyszyn
3. Mr Bogdan BiaÅek, Kielce
4. Ms Katarzyna Markusz, SokoÅów Podlaski
5. Mr Piotr Pojasek, Nowa WieÅpod Wronkami
6. Prof. Aleksander B. Skotnicki, Kraków
7. Ms Anna Wieczorek & Mr MirosÅaw Skrzypczyk, Szczekociny
8. Ochotniczy Hufiec PorzÄdkowania Cmentarza ydowskiego im. J. Rajnfelda (Voluntary Corp for Cleaning the J. Rajnfeld Jewish Cemetery), Warszawa
9. Ochotnicza Stra Poarna "StoÅpno (The "StoÅpno Voluntary Fire Sernice), MiÄdzyrzec Podlaski
10. Stowarzyszenie dla Rozwoju Gminy KoziegÅowy (Association for the Development of KoziegÅowy District), KoziegÅowy
11. Stowarzyszenie Muzeum MaÅej Ojczyzny (Association for Museum of Small Homeland), Bielsk Podlaski

Michael H. Traison is a Chicago-based lawyer and the initiator of the Fundusz Mechala H. Traisona dla Polski, and has organized and executed over 80 programs honoring Poland and Poles, preserving the memory of Jewry and promoting Polish Jewish relations.