On September 20, 2023, President Andrzej Duda conferred the Knight’s Cross Order of Merit on Stanlee Stahl, JFR’s Executive Vice President. The award was in recognition for her work and the work of The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous (JFR) in support of Polish Righteous Gentiles for the past thirty-one years. During this time, the JFR has sent more than 37 million dollars to rescuers in Poland.
The award was presented at Poland’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York City. First Lady of Poland, Agata Kornhauser-Duda, was also present at the ceremony along with Poland’s delegation to the United Nations and the Office of the Consul General of the Republic of Poland in New York.
In accepting the award, Stanlee thanked President Duda and the Polish government for the honor. She said the award would be shared with the Polish Righteous for their bravery and courage during the Holocaust and with the donors and supporters of the JFR who makes it possible for the Foundation to provided monthly financial assistance to the Righteous for the duration of their lives.
The Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland was created in 1974 to honor foreigners or Poles residing abroad who have rendered great service to Poland. The award is given at the discretion of Poland’s President. In July 2023, Stanlee was awarded the Pro Patria Medal, which is a civil state governmental award given by the Head of the Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression. The medal is given to mark special merit for acknowledging and remembering the Polish people’s fight for independence during World War II.
I arrived in Warsaw, Poland the afternoon of September 7, 2023, and that evening, attended an outdoor concert honoring Polish righteous. I was seated with Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland, Dr. Anna Bando, a Righteous Gentile and President of the Polish Society of the Righteous, and a number of Righteous Gentiles. The concert had two large screens which projected images of the Righteous as well as photographs of Jews before and during the Holocaust.
Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Many at the concert, especially the Righteous, had lived through the war. Poland had just commemorated the German invasion days before. When images from the war appeared on the screens the audience was silent. It was a time for reflection, for remembering, and for honoring the Righteous.
I was in Poland to attend a beatification ceremony of a Polish Catholic family in Markowa, Poland, on Sunday, September 10, 2023. The ceremony honored the Ulma Family. The family hid 8 Jews for more than 18 months until they were denounced. The Germans killed the Jews and the entire Ulma family, parents Jozef and Wiktoria, and their children. Here is a link to their rescue story.
September 7, 1992, was my first day at the JFR. Last month, I celebrated my 31st anniversary with the JFR – it has been a terrific 31 years! I have no idea where the time has gone. I work with an outstanding board, fabulous leadership, and dedicated staff – and I thank you.
It has been my honor and privilege to help repay a debt of gratitude on behalf of the Jewish people to those precious few non-Jews, who risked their lives and often the lives of their families, to save Jews during the Holocaust. The rescuers we support are very special and we are helping them to live out their lives in dignity.
To our Alfred Lerner Fellows, you are the very best! I am so fortunate to know you and to work with you. Together we have improved the quality of Holocaust education.
To our donors – none of the above would have been possible without your continued support and commitment. I thank you for helping the JFR to make a difference in the lives of the rescuers, our teachers, and their students.