Lowey, Holocaust Survivor Honored by Jewish Identity Group

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Roman Kent (second from right) was honored last month in Westchester. —Photo by Kevin Brown
Roman Kent (second from right) was honored last month in Westchester.
—Photo by Kevin Brown

Holocaust survivor Roman Kent, who has been a leading voice for the rights of Holocaust survivors, was honored last month in Westchester by an organization that promotes Jewish identity and education among young Jews from the former Soviet Union.

Kent, a survivor of the Lodz ghetto and four Nazi camps, including Auschwitz, was honored for his unceasing work in fighting on behalf of Jewish Holocaust victims and ensuring that their legacies are not forgotten. He was presented with the Honorary Elie Wiesel Award for Jewish Continuity and Holocaust Remembrance by Limmud FSU, an organization which brings together Jews from the former Soviet Union for weekends of Jewish culture, seminars and discussion.

As a young boy of 10 in Poland, Kent was sent, along with his family, into the Lodz Ghetto. In 1944, they were transported to Auschwitz, where he and his brother convinced the Nazis they were tradesmen, and were transferred to the Flossenburg concentration camp, ensuring their survival. He was liberated in April 1945, and came to the U.S. in June 1946.

Limmud FSU, which stands for Former Soviet Union, is an international organization that seeks to strengthen Jewish identity by providing Russian-speaking Jews around the world, ages 23– 40, with interactive workshops, panel discussions, religious celebrations, and cultural performances. Approximately 1,000 people participated in about 100 sessions during its weekend conference in Rye Brook.

U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey opened the event and was presented with the Limmud FSU Honorary Elie Wiesel Award for Jewish Continuity and Enduring Commitment to the State of Israel.  She spoke about the importance of restoring Jewish traditions and community throughout the former Soviet Union, where Judaism was repressed for decades under Communism. Cantor Azi Schwartz, who is featured in the movie Norman, starring Richard Gere, and the cantor of Park Avenue Synagogue in New York, performed.

Consul General of Israel in New York Dani Dayan spoke at the conference. Also featured was Yoel Rappel, the founder and former director of the Elie Wiesel Archive at Boston University, and who curated an exhibition for Limmud FSU conferences about the life of Elie Wiesel.

Kent is special advisor to the president of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), which supports Limmud FSU workshops around the world.  For more than 65 years, the Claims Conference has represented world Jewry in negotiating for compensation and restitution for Holocaust victims. The Claims Conference administers compensation funds, recovers unclaimed Jewish property, and allocates funds to institutions that provide social welfare services to Holocaust survivors and that preserve the memory and lessons of the Holocaust.

As Co-Chairman of the Claims Conference’s negotiating committee, Kent meets frequently with German government officials in his never-ending mission to support Holocaust survivors. For decades, he has exhorted the German government that it has a financial obligation to the Jews who survived the Nazi genocide, who suffered indescribable torments, and who lost their entire families and had to start their lives anew after WWII.

“The Claims Conference is thrilled that Roman has been recognized by Limmud FSU for his life’s work  – helping elderly and frail survivors of the Holocaust live the rest of their lives in dignity, which was so cruelly taken from them in their youth,” said Claims Conference Executive Vice President Greg Schneider.

Limmud FSU was co-founded by Chaim Chesler, also a member of the Claims Conference board, and New York philanthropist Sandra Cahn. “Limmud FSU’s mission is to help rebuild Jewish intellectual and cultural traditions that were wiped out by the Holocaust and decades of Soviet oppression,” Chesler said. “We want to strengthen the Jewish identity of young adults and to encourage them to participate in the revival of Jewish communities and culture, which will create a sustainable Jewish future.”

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