17 Sep Yaotsu Town Japan
The Miracle of Hanukkah
In January 2018, we hosted Chihiro Sugihara, the grandson of Chiune Sugihara, and Leo Melamed at our “Conscience and Action” Holocaust Remembrance event in Atlanta, USA. The event highlighted the legacy of Chiune Sugihara who, as the Japanese Consul in Lithuania, issued life-saving visas that saved more than 6,000 Jews during the Holocaust. The picture on the right is Chiune Sugihara and the picture on the left are Jews standing outside the Japanese Consul in Lithuania hoping to get a visa.
At our Holocaust event in Atlanta, we made a pledge to create daffodil memorial gardens in Japan to remind others of the compassion and humanitarian efforts of Chiune Sugihara who took great steps during a time of immense darkness for humanity.
On December 6th, 2018, that pledge became a reality as we made our way up the winding road to the village of Yaotsu – the birthplace of Chiune Sugihara.
It was a misty morning with grey rolling clouds that embraced and enveloped us as we entered the Hill of Humanity Memorial Park.
It was a very special, spiritual day at the Hill of Humanity Memorial Park where we joined together with Chihiro and Madoka Sugihara, Mayor Kaneko, Rabbi Binyomin Edery, Yukiko Ito, Mr Sakiura and Mr Mitamura from the Gifu Government offices, and the students of Yaotsu Primary School , Kamo Norin High School and the Yaotsu Silver Human Resources Association for the planting of 1000 Daffodils at the Visas for Life Memorial.
The event was beautiful and meaningful. As I reflect on the day, I feel that there was a deeply intense spiritual moment that captured the true spirit of Chiune Sugihara.
We arrived in Yaotsu veiled in mist and gazed out over the beautiful hills. The Hill of Humanity and the Memorial Park are beautifully situated on the mountaintop. Cherry Blossoms glistened in the morning light. The Sugihara museum is deeply moving and represents Sugihara’s acts of kindness and compassion amidst the horrors of the Holocaust.
The Daffodil Planting event was so beautifully organized. The students were amazing. Their participation provided such hope for a better future for the world. Their beautiful voices rose up with strength and power as they carried the message forward for us all.
The menorah lighting was so beautiful and very special. Binyomin Edery, the Chief Rabbi of Japan, lit the Hanukkah candles and shared a message of light and hope for the world.
Here is a picture of the daffodils in bloom the following Spring.
We are so grateful for this collaboration and partnership, and look forward to planting more daffodils at the Hill of Humanity Park in the future.
It was no coincidence that the day we planted daffodils at the Hill of Humanity and in the shadow of the Visas for Life Monument was during Hanukkah – the festival of light and miracles. There is a story told, that in the winter of 1939, a young boy stood in his aunt’s store hoping to purchase some candy. Unfortunately, he did not have enough money.. Suddenly a kind voice advised that he should take the candy as a gift. The young boy looked up into the man’s kind eyes and said that he could not take a gift from a stranger. “Then consider me your uncle” the man said. The young boy responded – then if you are my uncle, please join us at our family Hanukkah celebration this evening. This is how Chiune Sugihara attended the Hanukkah party at the home of Solly Ganor, and learned first-hand of the plight of Polish Jews desperate to flee Nazi persecution in Poland who sought refuge with the Ganor family in Lithuania.
As Rabbi Binyomin Edery began to light the oil lamps to commemorate the 5th day of Hanukkah, rain began to fall – lightly at first but then with a steady force. Despite the rain, the oil lamps continued burning – their light reaching up to share the miracle of Hanukkah and to bring hope and light and the spirit of Chiune Sugihara to our event, and to the world.