The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) will present its Or L’Olam — Light Unto the World — Award to the Republic of the Philippines at its Centennial Dinner in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, December 11th. The award, which will be accepted by Philippine Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., was created especially for JDC’s 100th Anniversary to honor those whose heroic actions saved the lives of Jews in danger.
JDC Chief Executive Officer Alan H. Gill said the award is in recognition of the role the Philippines played in saving the lives of more than a thousand Jewish refugees by selflessly opening its doors to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution prior to the Second World War.
Gill said the Philippines, which was then led by Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon, accepted more than 1,300 Jewish refugees in an operation that was carried out by the JDC, and the Jewish Community in Manila led by the Frieder family with US High Commissioner Paul McNutt.
More than 70 years later, JDC has returned to the Philippines today as part of its global disaster relief work, aiding Filipinos in areas most devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.
‘On this occasion of our 100th anniversary, it is our honor to bestow upon the Philippines our Or L’Olam Award for the country’s extraordinary life-saving actions,’ Gill said. ‘The Philippines’ heroic decision to admit Jews at a time when the doors of many nations were closed has never been forgotten by us.’
‘Our gratitude for this brave act and the kindness extended to Jews in their darkest hour underpins our relief and rebuilding efforts in the Philippines today,’ Gill added. ‘We work every day to return that same measure of hope and life-affirming care to the Filipino people at their time of need.’
Ambassador Cuisia expressed his appreciation to the JDC and the Jewish Community not only for the award but for the generous assistance that has been extended to typhoon victims in the Philippines.
‘On behalf of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, I would like to thank the JDC for recognizing a gesture that was extended more than seven decades ago,’ Ambassador Cuisia said. ‘On behalf of the Filipino people, I would like to thank the Jewish Community for always being there for us.’
Ambassador Cuisia said the Philippines greatly appreciates the assistance extended to the Filipino people by the JDC and the Jewish Community around the world, particularly those affected recently by Typhoon Haiyan.
JDC has a history operating in the Philippines, previously helping to fight post-typhoon cholera through an Israeli partner in 2009 and working to enhance emerging Jewish community life through the inclusion of the Philippines Jewish community members in Pan-Asian Jewish events.
Since its founding in 1914, JDC has been engaged in humanitarian interventions for Jewish and non-Jewish populations around the globe. To date, JDC has raised more than $1.5 million to aid the Philippines, providing victims of the storm with food, shelter, clean water, and sanitation items through its local and international partners.
Over the following months and years JDC will continue to partner with local groups to help rehabilitate the hardest-hit areas of the country and put into motion long-term, sustainable programs for the future development of the island nation.
JDC’s disaster relief programs are funded by special appeals of the Jewish Federations of North America and tens of thousands of individual donors to JDC. JDC coordinates its relief activities with the US Department of State, the US Agency for International Development, Interaction, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Israeli relief agencies and the United Nations.