Polish non-Jews honored for Jewish heritage efforts

Marcy Oster

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — Four Polish non-Jews and a group of students were recognized with a new award for their involvement in saving Jewish heritage.

The Laurel of Memory was presented Sunday by the Embassy of Israel, the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland and the Ministry of Culture. The award was established this year on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Poland and Israel.

“Whoever saves one life saves the entire world,” Anna Azari, Israel’s ambassador to Poland, said at the ceremony. “Today we reward people who are doing something that saves our world and helps the relations between our nations.”

The award winners are:

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* Eugeniusz Gradek, pastor of the Pentecostal Church in Zywiec, who takes care of the Jewish cemetery in the south-central Polish town.

* Professor Jerzy Mizgalski of Czestochowa, who works with the descendants of the southern Polish city’s Jews in Israel, organizes conferences and writes about the Jewish history of Czestochowa.

* Malgorzata Motor of Lezajsk, a journalist who publishes articles on the Jewish heritage of the Podkarpackie region.

* Major Marek Wrona of Wadowice, the director of a prison whose inmates clean up Jewish cemeteries in Wadowice and Andrychow, both in southern Poland.

* A group of students from a school in Strzegom, in southwestern Poland, who tend to the town’s Jewish cemetery.

The Laurel of Memory is derived from a program initiated in 1998 by Michael Traison, a Jewish-American attorney whose firm has offices in Poland, under the name of Preserving Memory.

“Now the number of people who are involved in protection of Jewish heritage is growing, so we thought about creating a new project,” said Monika Krawczyk, director of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland.

On June 28, Krakow will host an awards ceremony recognizing Poles involved in preserving Jewish heritage.

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