DAVENPORT -- It appeared as if God stopped crying for Holocaust victims long enough Thursday to smile upon thousands of "Righteous Gentiles" who prevented the deaths of even more Jews.
A ray of sun peeked out of cloudy skies as people gathered in front of the Christ the King Chapel at St. Ambrose University to dedicate a monument to honor 24,000 non-Jews, known as "Righteous Gentiles."
The 1,500-pound Santa Fe Red Stone was presented by the Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities. It bore a Star of David and a Christian cross, and read: "in honor of Father Pierre Marie-Benoit, Irena Sendler and the more than 24,000 non-Jews who saved persecuted Jews during the Holocaust.
Whoever saves a single life saves an entire universe.' Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5," also was etched into the stone monument.
Rev. Marie-Benoit and Ms. Sendler were specifically recognized on the monument because of their and St. Ambrose University's shared Catholic affiliations, Jewish Federation executive director Allan Ross said.
They and other "Righteous Gentiles" needed to match three main requirements, Mr. Ross told the gathering. They could only be nominated by a Jewish person, their assistance to Jews had to be repeated and substantial, and had to be done without financial gain, he said.
Ms. Sendler, known as "The Angel of the Warsaw Ghetto," died in 2008. She was 98. She was a Polish Catholic social worker who saved 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw, Poland, ghetto.
Judy Winnick, a Colorado Distinguished Teacher award winner, portrayed Ms. Sendler during the dedication. Ms. Winnick has been in town since Tuesday, portraying the Polish heroine and speaking to about 1,500 people at the Tri-City Jewish Center, Rock Island Public Library, St. Ambrose and local schools.
During her portrayal at the monument dedication, Ms. Winnick said it was fitting to be at St. Ambrose, with its motto of "faith, learning and justice."
She also cited the same Talmud passage that was etched into the stone about how saving one life was like saving the universe, preceded by a prayer given in Hebrew and English by Rabbi Tamar Grimm, of the Congregation Beth Israel at the Tri-City Jewish Center, before Ms. Winnick and Ambrose vice president of academic and student affairs Dr. Paul Koch unveiled the monument.
Dr. Koch said he could think of no better role model than Irena Sandler, to epitomize Righteous Gentiles.
He also cited what U. S. President Lyndon Johnson once said about how the Rev. Marie-Benoit's actions inspired Americans to fight to protect and preserve their rights as citizens.
Rabbi Henry Karp, of Davenport's Temple Emanuel, called the deeds of Rev. Marie-Benoit, Ms. Sendler and other Righteous Gentiles "models of God-loving behavior," while the Rev. Chuck Adams, St. Ambrose campus ministry director and chaplain, said courage shown by them, as memorialized by the monument, should inspire and remind Ambrose students to be courageous, too.
Today is Wednesday, April 23, the 113th day of 2014. There are 252 days left in the year.
1864 — 150 years ago: Some persons are negotiating for 80 feet of ground on Illinois Street with a view of erecting four stores thereon. It would serve a better purpose if the money was invested in neat tenement houses. 1889 — 125 years ago: The Central station, car house and stables of the Moline-Rock Island Horse Railway line of the Holmes syndicate, together with 15 cars and 42 head of horses, were destroyed by fire. The loss was at $15,000. 1914 — 100 years ago: Vera Cruz, Mexico, after a day and night of resistance to American forces, gradually ceased opposition. The American forces took complete control of the city. 1939 — 75 years ago: Dr. R. Bruce Collins was reelected for a second term as president of the Lower Rock Island County Tuberculosis Association. 1964 — 50 years ago: Work is scheduled to begin this summer on construction of a new men's residence complex and an addition to the dining facilities at Westerlin Hall at Augustana College. 1989 — 25 years ago: Special Olympics competitors were triple winners at Rock Island High School Saturday. The participants vanquished the rain that fell during the competition, and some won their events; but most important, they triumphed over their own disabilities.