April 14, 2024
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Jewish Foundation for the Righteous Relocates to West Orange

Main Street in West Orange has a new addition. The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous (JFR) has moved its offices from New York City to Essex County, New Jersey.

Stanlee Stahl, executive vice president of the JFR, said, “I am excited to be in New Jersey. I’m hoping to make connections within the emigre community.”

Stahl, who has been with the organization since 1992, recently returned from a trip to Germany and the Netherlands. The purpose of the trip? Education.

“We took teachers to places where teachers don’t usually go,” Stahl said. “We gave teachers a layered experience so they understand the Shoah was more than just boxcars from Germany to Auschwitz.”

The JFR believes that this education is vital as it gives educators the tools they need to properly teach this dark part of history to their students.

“Teachers do not teach what they do not know,” Stahl noted, “or else they don’t teach it very well.” The JFR works to remedy this problem as it relates to Holocaust education.

Education of public school teachers is only one half of the foundation’s two-pronged approach. The JFR also provides monthly financial support to righteous gentiles, “people not of the Jewish faith—mainly Christian, but also some Muslim—who, during the Shoah, risked their lives to save Jews,” Stahl explained.

She continued, “We give $1.1 to $1.5 million a year, some $29 million over the past 26 years, to non-Jews who saved Jewish lives. They didn’t have to do it. They risked their lives, especially in Eastern Europe.”

The JFR gets its list of rescuers from Yad Vashem, which officially recognizes non-Jewish rescuers as “righteous,” among other places. To be recognized by Yad Vashem, a Jewish person needs to write in on the non-Jew’s behalf. If Yad Vashem hears that a particular rescuer is in financial need, it reaches out to the JFR. Sometimes the survivors themselves reach out to the JFR on behalf of their rescuer.

These rescuers are supported financially for their lifetimes. “We give them money until the day they die,” said Stahl, “and then we give money for their headstones.”

So what happens once all the rescuers are gone? “We had an actuarial study done and by 2038 there will be no more rescuers,” Stahl remarked. “In fact, by 2025 we will only be funding maybe 150 rescuers.”

She continued, “When the rescuers pass on, our focus will be on education.”

One thing that Stahl believes distinguishes the JFR from other Holocaust education centers and organizations is that its focus has never shifted. “Over the years, many of the initial Holocaust centers have expanded to include other atrocities. This is one of the few centers that focuses 100 percent on the Shoah, the annihilation of European Jewry,” she said. “We want people to understand the Shoah so they know what is unique about it. It was unprecedented and uniquely different.”

In the coming weeks, Stahl will be looking to hire an educational director. The JFR is also seeking volunteer translators—fluent in Russian, Polish and Albanian, among other languages—to help translate letters or make phone calls. Volunteers are also needed to help with fundraising and mail. Stahl will be reaching out to Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston, Golda Och Academy Upper School in West Orange and Seton Hall Prep, also in West Orange, for student volunteers.

For more information on the JFR, visit the website at jfr.org. For information on how you can volunteer, or with specific questions, contact Stahl at 212-727-9955
or [email protected]. The JFR offices are located at 80 Main Street, suite 380, West Orange, NJ 07052.

By Jill Kirsch

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