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ICEJ Interviews New CFYV Director - Sari Granitza

Christian Friends of Yad Vashem

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23 Aug 2019 (All day)
ICEJ Interviews New CFYV Director - Sari Granitza

Sari Granitza may be stepping into the shoes of Dr. Susanna Kokkonen as Director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, but she is no stranger to this revered institution and to the tragic legacy of the Holocaust which it seeks to memorialize in perpetuity. Her family on both her father’s and mother’s side lost many members to the Nazi genocide against the Jews of Europe. And she has now worked for well over a decade at Yad Vashem to help preserve the memory of the six million Jews killed in the Shoah. We recently asked Sari to share about her work with Yad Vashem, and her vision for its outreach to Christians going forward.

From childhood, the subject of the Holocaust always moved and interested Sari, who grew up in the Israeli city of Bnei Brak surrounded by Holocaust survivors. Even her kindergarten teacher had a number tattooed on her arm. This early introduction planted seeds deep in her heart which blossomed when she joined the staff at Yad Vashem more than 15 years ago.

“I feel that Yad Vashem is fulfilling an important mission and I am very proud to be a part of this great institution, which gives a voice to the Holocaust victims and survivors”, Sari explained. “As time goes on and the number of remaining survivors dwindles, we need to continue to pass on their legacy and to learn and teach about what happened, to ensure for a better world of acceptance and mutual respect for one another.”

WFJ: As the new director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, what is your basic message to Christians about the importance of Holocaust education and of supporting the mission of CFYV?

Sari: In the Bible, we are commanded to remember and pass on to future generations: “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt…" (Deuteronomy 25:17); Tell your children about it, let your children tell their children, and their children another generation”, which is exactly what the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem does...

It is important to recognise and be vigilant when we see hatred and antisemitism rising. Being a bystander is not an option as that just endorses them. In order to stand up to antisemitism it is crucial to know the facts, to recognise it and to know how to fight back within our communities. I believe this starts with education – to arm people with historically accurate facts in order to combat distorted and false facts.

Yad Vashem is the spiritual home of the victims - those who were murdered and those who survived. They asked us never to forget and to continue telling their story. We see countries, institutions and individuals that are not necessarily denying the Holocaust, but are distorting the facts. Through the artifacts, documents and testimonies which Yad Vashem is collecting and the research Yad Vashem is conducting, we serve as a voice to the victims and survivors and will continue to be their voice when they are no longer with us.

WFJ: What is your vision for CFYV going forward? What has worked best so far and what new initiatives do you want to pursue?

Sari: It is crucial to reach out to Christians in all corners of the world. Our mission is a common one and we want and need the Christian world as our partners. As the generation of Holocaust survivors dwindles, people of all faiths must now join forces to carry on the torch of remembrance, and build bridges of understanding, cooperation and friendship between the Christian world and the Jewish world.

It is our obligation as religious believers to learn from the past and educate future generations with the facts. We must empower the younger Christian generations with accurate and reliable historical information, teaching them to follow the example of the Righteous Among the Nations, who took it upon themselves not to be bystanders but to actively choose good over evil.

In a private conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he mentioned that we often see that there is a lack of general knowledge in the current generation. When we look at the survey conducted by the Claims Conference published on Holocaust Memorial Day 2018, some very worrying statistics were revealed:
• over two-thirds of Americans had never heard of Auschwitz;
• half could not name a single concentration camp or ghetto;
• one third claim that less than 2 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust;
• 58 per cent believe a similar event could take place again

My vision is to try and change these statistics and make the world more knowledgeable about the Holocaust. To do this, we will partner with ICEJ and continue to host many visitors and groups like the Christian Leadership Seminar, and travel globally to lecture and provide ready-to-print exhibitions for display in schools, churches, universities, libraries and community centers around the world.

Some of our new initiatives include:
• A new representative of CFYV in the US, Rev. Mark Jenkins, who will regularly travel to different churches and communities to spread our message.
• For the first time, we had a CFYV booth at the 2019 NRB Convention.

WFJ: How troubled are you by the growing rise in antisemitism worldwide? What will CFYV be doing to combat it?

Sari: It amazes me that antisemitism still exists and is thriving in the world after the Holocaust and in the 21st Century with all its advancements. We must remember wherever there is antisemitism there is also hatred, xenophobia, racism and consequently violence. It is not strictly a Jewish issue.

A major tool to combat the rise of antisemitism is access to complete and accurate information. The work carried out by the Yad Vashem Archives and Research Department today is crucial. As time passes, countries and institutions are distorting the facts. Yad Vashem is currently engaged in an urgent eleventh-hour project to recover and document the truth from the generation that witnessed the events; collecting testimonies from survivors is more important now than ever before. We want to encourage our Christian friends to partner with us in this project.

I invite Christian leaders from around the world to participate in the ICEJ-Sponsored Christian Leadership Seminar at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, becoming ambassadors equipped with the tools to educate their communities to stand up against antisemitism.

We are all created in the image of God and I believe that with this premise in mind, it is important for us to continue building bridges between the Jewish and Christian worlds to advance towards our common goals.


Christian Friends of Yad Vashem was founded in 2005 in partnership with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. It is crucial for Yad Vashem to continue with this important work! Only 40% of Yad Vashem's annual budget is met by the Israeli government, with the shortfall funded through private donations. For more information or to support the work of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, please go to: int.icej.org/yadvashem
 

 

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