Documentary commemorates Philippines efforts to save lives during the Holocaust

Ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day members of Winnipeg’s Jewish and Filipino community came together to celebrate the bond between the two groups, formed when the small island country welcomed 1,300 refugees fleeing the holocaust.

By Morgan Modjeski

A moment in history that has forever linked the Filipino and Jewish communities being commemorated. When 1,300 Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust were taken in by the small island nation.

To mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, community members gathered for a screening of a documentary entitled “Rescue In the Philippines” — Perla Javate, president of the Philippine Heritage Council of Manitoba says the story is an important one.

“Sharing a story of survival. A story of compassion. A story of love. A story of humanity,” said Perla Javate, president of the Philippine Heritage Council of Manitoba

The documentary details how Manuel L. Quezon, then president of the Philippines, introduced policies to allow Jewish refugees into the country, forming a tight bond between the two groups.

“It is a moment of pride for us as part of our history,” explained Javate. “It is very meaningful, being able to help out our brothers and sisters who were looking for refuge.”

“It’s so inspiring that once in history we are considered as the country that used its heart.”

Leila Castro says the moment in history is one that helps to define the nation and the Filipino people.

“No matter what was the influence of the other countries, it did what was right and that was to accommodate Jewish refugees,” said Leila Castro, founder of the 204 Neighbourhood Watch.

Dr. Ruth Ashrafi, regional director for B’Nai Brith Manitoba, says anti-semitism and discrimination are on the rise and events like the screening help to strengthen unity against hate and combat racism.

“Unfortunately 70, 80 years after the Holocaust, antisemitism is on the rise and other forms of discrimination and racism too,” explained Dr. Ashrafi. “The Filipino community is also being targeted, so at B’Nai Brith, with this it’s really important that we reach out across the various minorities in town, form alliances to fight racism and discrimination together, learn best practices and support each other.”

To mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Winnipeg, several monuments, including the Manitoba Legislature and the Winnipeg sign behind me, lit up yellow as part of the Canadian Jewish Advocacy #WeRemember campaign.

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