Hungarian woman honoured by Israel

August 11, 2017 by J-Wire News Service
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The Embassy of Israel in Canberra has honoured Mrs Jolán Michnay as Righteous Among the Nations.


The family with Ambassador Shmuel Ben-Shmuel [rt]

Jolán Michnay’s granddaughter, Mrs Judy Kaye, accepted the award on behalf of her late grandmother, who “truly believed that hospitality to strangers might put her in the presence of Angels. Together with my grandfather, they taught their children to be empathetic and brave and to share what food and shelter they had, and to take risks.”

The award by the State of Israel recognises individuals who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust without expectation of reward.

Mrs Kaye said that her grandmother had “made her house in Hungary a home for her husband; her children; the Adventist congregation; the homeless and the needy. During the Holocaust… it was her powerful relationship with God, and the trust in her husband, that allowed her to take the risks she did … to hide and care for her persecuted Jewish neighbours and countrymen, and provide them with a safe home and hope for a future.”

Pastor László Michnay, Jolán’s husband was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations in 1964. Together with her husband László Michnay, they risked their lives and the lives of their six children to save the lives of over 50 Jews. In the words of her granddaughter, who campaigned for her recognition of her grandmother’s contributions, “we believe it was a simple oversight by those rescued… perhaps a sign of the patriarchal attitudes that prevailed or perhaps they were just in a hurry to get the facts recorded. Without doubt our grandparents were a team committed to saving Jewish lives”.

Ambassador Shmuel Ben-Shmuel, Mrs Judy Kaye and executive director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry Peter Wertheim spoke at the ceremony, with music from local singer Hannah Golan-Burnet. Also in attendance were ambassadors and diplomatic representatives, members of the Jewish community, and the family of Mrs Jolán Michnay.

Jolán was remembered as woman of great compassion, with Ambassador Shmuel Ben- Shmuel saying “I believe it was these acts of loving kindness that prompted the Hungarian writer Zseni Varnai to write of Jolán that ‘She was like a soft milk loaf: a sweet, round woman whose mission on this earth was to show people what goodness is’.”

Peter Wertheim said “It is difficult to pinpoint the special qualities that make it possible for seemingly ordinary people to risk their own lives and the lives of their loved ones in order to save and protect complete strangers from persecution and mass murder. There is no single factor which can explain the source of the civic courage that underpins these astounding acts of moral and physical bravery. We can only be grateful that rare people like Laszlo and Jolan Michnay walk this earth with us lesser mortals. It is not only for Israel, but for all of us, to honour the memory of the righteous among the nations by educating succeeding generations about the magnitude of their heroism. Thank you Judy for doing that much needed work of education. I know how justifiably proud you and your whole family are about your grand-parents. I am sure if they were still alive they would be proud of you too and the work you are doing. It is thanks to people like your grandparents that we can all have hope that even in the darkest times and most brutal of circumstances, the spark of goodness that resides in humanity can never be completely extinguished.”

This was the 29th time the award has been presented in Australia, with Ambassador Shmuel Ben-Shmuel saying “We stand to learn a lot from those deemed Righteous Among the Nations. They inspire us to take heart and stand up for those around us, even in the face of great persecution or death. It is because of the selfless acts of those Righteous few that generations of Jews are alive today.”


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