I had the privilege of watching the documentary, “Rescue in the Philippines: Refuge from the Holocaust” at the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH). It tells a story of how the moral courage of an influential few saved the lives of 1,300 Jewish people in Nazi Europe in the days leading to World War II.
To be honest, I did not already know much about Jewish history aside from what I have read in the bible, and what I have seen in movies like Schindler’s List
and The Diary of Anne Fran
k. So when I heard about the Philippines’ participation in this important and controversial piece of history, I was not sure what to expect. I just knew that I had enough curiosity and skepticism in my head. “Why do more non-Filipinos know more about this part of history than Filipinos? How come I’ve never heard about this? I don’t think any of my teachers talked about this in history class.”
After watching the film, I had mixed emotions. I was moved to tears. In my own little way, I wanted to do my part and help spread this jewel of a film by showing it to my family and friends.
The Philippines' part in this humanitarian mission—a story that was not written in history books nor taught in schools—was astonishing. Despite the country’s struggles in gaining its own independence from the US during the WWII era, it was able to help Jewish refugees gain hope and freedom. It was truly an honor to learn more about the real-life story of these untold heroes, who inspired me their faith, courage, and humility. They came from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, but they worked together towards a common goal: to save lives, and to do the right thing.
If most people use their power, money, and influence the right way, would our world be a much better place?
During the panel discussion, I found myself standing in the middle of a big crowd, sharing my thoughts and feelings about the film. I was surprised to hear a big round of applause. It was humbling. But what amazed me was how many people approached me and talked to me about how they were moved by my positive insights.
I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Robert Levin, NMAJH’s Community Relations Liaison, whom I describe as a “modern-day rescuer”. In his own way, he continues to save Jewish history and culture by liberating the minds of youth, by bringing together the Jewish community and other surrounding communities., and by welcoming people from around the world.
He also gave me an opportunity to take a special tour of the museum with my father and my aunt who were visiting from the Philippines. Robert’s passion and knowledge are truly inspiring. I really got interested in Jewish contributions to our nation, their impact on the rest of the world, and the links that help bind disparate cultures. I believe the story of their journey, struggles, sacrifices, triumphs, and continuous contribution to humanity could inspire and enlighten many nations.
"Whoever saves one life saves the world entire." - the Talmud
By Vicky Faye B. Aquino, Master of Arts in Art & Design Education, The University of the Arts