Albania independence event on Capitol Hill honors Jews, rescuers

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish and Israeli officials attended an event on Capitol Hill marking Albania’s 100th anniversary in order to honor the role of Albanians in protecting Jews during the Holocaust.

Among those attending the luncheon Wednesday were family members of Albanians and Kosovars who protected Jews during the Nazi occupation, as well as officials from the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and Richard Stone, the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Jews in Albania and Kosovo were largely spared during the Nazi occupation because of the actions of rescuers.

The event also honored former Rep. Ben Gilman (R-N.Y.) and the late Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), Jewish congressmen who highlighted the role of Albanians in rescuing Jews and advocated on behalf of the Albanian people during the post-Iron Curtain turmoil in the Balkans in the 1990s.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) was among a number of lawmakers in attendance.

Other Jewish officials attending included Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who directs the Washington office of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, and Ezra Friedlander, who heads the Friedlander Group, a lobbying outfit that has advocated for Holocaust remembrance.

The event was organized by the Albanian American Civic League and Foundation.

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