The Honorable Ronald S. Lauder receives Sheptytsky Award at ceremony in New York

James C. Temerty, Board Chairman, Ukrainian Jewish Encounter (left); Ronald S. Lauder, President, World Jewish Congress (middle); Borys Lozhkin, President, Jewish Confederation of Ukraine (right).

The Honorable Ronald S. Lauder, philanthropist, activist and president of the World Jewish Congress received the Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky Award for 2018 at a ceremony at New York’s Ukrainian Institute of America on 27 September.

Amb. Lauder was recognized for his support of Ukraine’s Jewish community and his promotion of Ukrainian-Jewish cooperation. He is the fourth recipient of the award, which is conferred by the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter.

In presenting the award, UJE Board Chairman James C. Temerty called Amb. Lauder, “a great leader of the global Jewish community and a friend of Ukraine and of the Jewish community in Ukraine.”

Borys Lozhkin, JCU’s president said it was appropriate the award was presented during Sukkot, an important Jewish holiday of celebration.

“Thanks to Ambassador Lauder’s philanthropy and commitment, our community is now coming from a place of strength,” he said. “Ambassador Lauder’s deeds have helped bring the entire Ukrainian Jewish community together through the establishment of Jewish educational institutions such as the Ronald Lauder Camp Shuva, Jewish Day Schools and kindergartens in Ukraine, as well as a modern security system to protect the Jewish community.”

Dr. Leon Chameides, who survived the Holocaust because of Metropolitan Sheptytsky’s efforts, said it was appropriate that Amb. Lauder received the award as the two men shared three characteristics: a deep and abiding faith, evidence of courageous independence and the saving of Jews.

“I am here with you only because Metropolitan Sheptytsky and the brothers of the Studite Order had the conviction and the moral courage to answer the Biblical question ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ in the affirmative,” Dr. Chameides said. “Theirs was a lonely beam of light on an otherwise dark and bleak horizon.”

Mr. Lauder noted he was humbled in receiving the medal, and paid homage to the Metropolitan.

“What makes this award special is that is it named after Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky, Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church during World War II. The Archbishop had to strike an unusual balance to deal with Nazis who occupied his country, and to save Jewish lives.”

In saving 150 Jewish lives, the Metropolitan “saved 150 worlds”, Amb. Lauder said, referring to the Jewish precept “Whoever Saves a Life Saves the World”.

“Although I may have educated many thousands Jewish children, I don’t know if I saved one Jewish life,” he said. “But the fact is, this man had courage, unbelievable courage at a time when so few people had that courage and so few people raised up, particularly in the religious world, and this man deserves all the credit.  And my only sadness is that his name is not better known. I do believe much more should be written about him, spoken about him. He deserves everything we can give.”

“We must remember the Jewish people have been tied to Ukraine for over a thousand years,” Amb. Lauder said.  Although the relationship between Ukrainians and Jews has not always been positive, he credited Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko for insisting that anti-Semitism would not be tolerated in Ukraine.

“For that we are very grateful,” he said.

He noted everything needed to be done to bring the Ukrainian and Jewish people together and welcomed UJE’s efforts in that direction.

In his remarks Mr. Temerty said that “although there are persistent anti-Semitic acts in Ukraine, as is the case in most nations, I’m happy to note that the predominant tenor of Ukrainian-Jewish relations there and in the diaspora is one of mutual respect and regard. To strengthen this process, we must both honestly address the past and build a future together focused on cooperation and rooted in the fact that a huge proportion of Israelis and the Jewish diaspora can trace their roots to the territory of Ukraine.”

Amb. Lauder is the fourth winner of the Sheptytsky Award. In 2016, the recipient was Ukrainian writer and former Soviet dissident Ivan Dziuba, recognized for his decades-long commitment to human rights, speaking out against xenophobia and anti-Semitism and working for national reconciliation.

In 2014, the award was presented to Ukrainian businessman Victor Pinchuk for his work in fostering Ukrainian-Jewish relations and advancing his homeland’s European aspirations. A year earlier, the award was given by the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine to James C.  Temerty, Canadian-Ukrainian businessman, philanthropist, and founder of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter.

The Ukrainian Jewish Encounter has dedicated significant efforts to advance international recognition of the legacy of the legendary Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Leader Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky, one of the towering Ukrainian leaders of the twentieth century.

UJE’s efforts were advanced when the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine created the Andrei Sheptytsky Medal. The award was established for contributions to the cause of Ukrainian-Jewish understanding and cooperation and is awarded to people who have dedicated themselves to fostering relations between the Ukrainian and Jewish peoples.

Metropolitan Sheptytsky is a model worthy of celebration and emulation, providing a basis for building trust and bridges between communities.

Born in 1865 to a prominent aristocratic family, he was the spiritual leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from 1901 until his death in 1944. During World War II, he helped save more than the 150 Jewish lives. The Metropolitan sheltered Jews in his own residence at great personal risk and arranged for Church monasteries to protect well over one hundred Jewish children. Not one of them was betrayed or lost.

Metropolitan Sheptytsky also publicly protested against Nazi Germany’s murderous policies towards Jews, alerted Pope Pius XII in personal reports about the mass murders taking place, and issued the pastoral letter Thou Shalt Not Kill in November 1942, urging his parishioners not to participate in Nazi atrocities.

Throughout his life, the Metropolitan was dedicated to preserving Ukraine’s cultural heritage. He collected icons and objects of art, and as a patron of the arts and philanthropist, supported many prominent Ukrainian artists. Today, his collection is the basis of the Andrei Sheptytsky National Museum in Lviv.

Presentation of the 2018 Sheptytsky Award to The Honorable Ronald S. Lauder by the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter and the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine, Ukrainian Institute, New York City, 27 September 2018

00:0004:50
Adrian Karatnycky, Co-Director, Ukrainian Jewish Encounter.

04:5510:13
Dr. Leon Chameides, Holocaust survivor saved by Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky.

10:1410:37
Adrian Karatnycky, Co-Director, Ukrainian Jewish Encounter.

10:3815:51
James C. Temerty, Board Chairman, Ukrainian Jewish Encounter.

15:5216:46
Borys Lozhkin, President, Jewish Confederation of Ukraine.

16:4721:02
Presentation of the Sheptytsky Award to The Honorable Ronald S. Lauder, President, World Jewish Congress.

21:0328:35
The Honorable Ronald S. Lauder, President, World Jewish Congress.

28:4031:38
Berel Rodal, Board Member, Ukrainian Jewish Encounter.

31:39-end
After the event

James C. Temerty Presents 2018 Sheptytsky Award to The Honorable Ronald S. Lauder

Speech of James C. Temerty, Chairman of the Board of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter, upon presenting the Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky Award for 2018 to The Honorable Ronald S. Lauder on 27 September 2018 at the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York City.

It’s a great honor for me to be here participating in this ceremony. I have a number of reasons for feeling that way.

First of all because it’s held in memory of one of the great figures of 20th century Ukraine, the Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky, who did so much, as we heard, to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Ukraine.

Secondly, because we are among friends committed to the cause of Ukrainian-Jewish and Ukraine-Israel solidarity, cooperation and dialogue.

Thirdly, because we are here with our colleagues, Borys Lozhkin, and his team from the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine, our longtime partners in presenting the Sheptytsky Medal and Award, which was initiated by the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine and Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, the chief Rabbi of Kyiv.

And fourthly, and most importantly, because we are honoring Ronald Lauder, a great leader of the global Jewish community and a friend of Ukraine and of the Jewish community in Ukraine.

This gathering, in essence, is what is intended by the name of our organization—Ukrainian Jewish Encounter.

The UJE, as we call ourselves, has been an active partner of both the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine and the World Jewish Congress in a number of commemorations and events.

In two days, we will be commemorating the 77th anniversary of the murders of nearly 34,000 Jews at the hands of Nazis at the ravine known as Babyn Yar in Kyiv. Two years ago, we worked hand-in-hand with the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine and the World Jewish Congress in a major government and non-governmental commemoration of the act of unspeakable horror that was Babyn Yar.

This summer, we cooperated with the World Jewish Congress and with Borys Lozhkin and his team in a conference in Kyiv focused on celebrating Israel’s 70th anniversary by discussing Israel’s experience of nation-building and its relevance to the Ukraine of today. In August, we and the World Jewish Congress cooperated in a conference focused on Yiddish literature and culture that was held in Chernivtsi, Chernowitz, Ukraine, where 110 years ago a major conference was convened to address these very same topics.

Although there are persistent anti-Semitic acts in Ukraine, as is the case in most nations, I’m happy to note that the predominant tenor of Ukrainian-Jewish relations there and in the diaspora is one of mutual respect and regard. To strengthen this process, we must both honestly address the past and build a future together focused on cooperation and rooted in the fact that a huge proportion of Israelis and the Jewish diaspora can trace their roots to the territory of Ukraine.

Let us build common bonds and understanding by working to ensure that the Jewish and Gentile communities of Ukraine cooperate based on the values of freedom, national sovereignty, safety, and national security to which they and the good people of Israel aspire.

There is no better representation of this aim than this medal and award in honor of Andrei Sheptytsky, a moral leader who embodied the best values of tolerance and of the dignity of the human spirit and of all peoples.

Text: Natalia A. Feduschak
Photos: Pavlo Terekhov
Video: Sean P. Murphy