By Abraham H. Miler, Originally published in JNS.org
Jews should observe a day of remembrance for the Christians and Yazidis being exterminated in the Middle East. Lighting a yahrzeit (memorial) candle and reciting the prayer known as the Mourner’s Kaddish would be an appropriate way to honor the memory of the righteous Christians who saved Jews from the flames of the Holocaust and to bring the Christian and Yazidi “genocide” (I use that word purposely) to the attention of the world.
I would nominate October 20, 2016 as the date for such an observance. That is the day in 1943 when the Nazis captured Irena Sendler (nee Krzyzanowska), the Polish nurse and social worker who served in the Polish underground in German-occupied Warsaw during World War II, bringing her rescue efforts on behalf of Jewish children to an abrupt end.
Sendler was the head of the children’s section of Zegota, the underground’s department to aid Jews. With the assistance of other members of Zegota, Sendler smuggled approximately 2500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto, saving them from certain death. Aside from diplomats, such as Sweden’s Raoul Wallenberg and Japan’s Chiune Sugihara who issued visas to aid Jews in fleeing occupied Europe, Sendler saved more Jews than any single individual.
Sendler’s motivation, like that of many righteous gentiles, came in no small measure from her faith. As Pope Francis has recently acknowledged the common ties that bind his church and the Jewish people together, and as Orthodox rabbis in Europe, Israel, and the United States signed a document affirming Christianity as the “willed divine outcome and gift to the nations,” marking the day by reciting Kaddish would reinforce that unity and attest to the Jewish will to stand up for persecuted gentiles.