As you light the menorah this Hanukkah, your family can contribute to a worthy cause and be inspired by a true hero. If you’ve seen the feature film The Zookeeper’s Wife, you may recall scenes that featured a doctor who refused to be saved so that he could look after the children.
The legacy of this remarkable pediatrician, writer, educator, philosopher and children’s rights advocate Janusz Korczak, who sacrificed his own life to nurture 200 children, is well-known in Poland and Israel, with schools and streets named after him, yet few people in America have ever heard of him.
Korczak is the personal hero of Irving Roth, an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor and the director of the Holocaust Resource Center at Temple Judea in Manhasset, who has collaborated with the Long Island–based Jewish Gift Place and renowned Judaica artist Gary Rosenthal to commemorate Korczak and his children with a Hanukkah menorah modeled after the 7-foot-by-20-foot sculpture, “The Last Journey,” which is on display outside the temple.
“He believed in creating a good society, particularly for children,” said Roth. “From this came the idea that he can take children who were abused, neglected or orphaned and put them in an environment where they can flourish. He accomplished that with an orphanage in Warsaw for Jewish children. The concept of fairness permeates his whole personality. He had many opportunities to escape, but wouldn’t abandon the children. He stayed with them on the cattle car to Treblinka and gave his life so the children wouldn’t be frightened.”
All of the proceeds from the Janusz Korczak Menorah, which is available in three sizes, will be donated to the Holocaust Resource Center, whose mission is to combat ignorance, hatred and violence.
Handmade of brass, copper and steel, each menorah comes with a brochure featuring the life story of Korczak along with a signed card by Roth. The small menorah measures 10 ¼ inches by 2 ½ inches by 4 inches and costs $118; the large is 10 ¼ inches by 2 ½ inches by 6 ½ inches and costs $180; and the extra-large menorah measures 22 inches by 15 inches by 4 ½ inches, weighs 12 pounds and costs $540.