NEW JERSEY - Shedding light on heroism of Muslims who risked their lives to rescue Jews during World War II, the Jewish community in New Jersey has hosted an exhibition to remember how they were protected by Muslims in Albania from the Nazi brutality.
History has recorded what everyone there already knew: No Jew was ever turned over by an Albanian, H.E. Ferit Hoxha, Albania's ambassador to the United Nations, was quoted as saying by New Jersey Jewish News website.All the Jews there survived the war.
An exhibition was held at the South Brunswick Public Library earlier this month to remember how the Muslim ruler of Europe's smallest countries welcomed Jews as guests in his country.
According to Hoxha, Albanian King Zog, who ruled the country from 1928 to 1939, personally saved Jews who fled to Albania after 1938's Nazi crackdown on Jews in Germany.
The king also instructed his country's foreign embassies to provide visas to Jews and for guards to allow entry to those arriving at the border.
There are no foreigners in Albania, the king said, according to Hoxha. Only guests.
The exhibition, which runs until the end of May, shows photos compiled by American photographer Norman H. Gershman in the book, BESA: Muslims who Saved Jews during World War II.
The library also screened BESA: The Promise, a documentary based on Gershman's work that features interviews with children and grandchildren of Muslim rescuers and the Jews they saved.
Both works tell the moving story of how the Besa, a code of honor in Albanian culture, guided their courageous actions.
Besa is generally translated as faith or sometimes to keep the promise.
Before World War II, there were only 200 Jews in Muslims-majority Albania, which had a total population of 800,000.
After the war, there were many more Jews after Jewish refugees from some half dozen European countries fled the Nazi persecution and sought shelter in Albania, according to Israeli officials.
Israel has already honored 63 Albanians as Righteous Among the Nations, a title granted to non-Jews who helped Jews escape Nazi persecution.
Touring from country to another, Gershman, who is Jewish, said he felt compelled to tell their story in order to counteract pervasive anti-Muslim sentiments.
We have to get the word out to the next generation, he told the overflow crowd of 200.
It's a paranoia we are witnessing, and we have got to fight it.
The program is sponsored by the Sisterhood of Salaam/Shalom, a local group of Muslim and Jewish women dedicated to fostering friendship and understanding between the two faiths.
It is so important that the world sees this, Sisterhood founder Sheryl Olitzky told NJJN.
Instead of thinking of Muslims as terrorists, here we have Albania, which is mostly Muslim, saving Jews.
If the rest of the world had acted like Albania, there would have been no Holocaust.
Though there are no official figures, America is believed to be home to nearly eight million Muslims.A 2010 report of the North American Jewish Data Bank puts the number of Jews in the US at around 6.5 million.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net