On May 17, 2016, I joined the film screening of the documentary “Rescue in the Philippines: Refuge from the Holocaust” in Skokie, IL, where many Jewish and Filipino Americans live. The film screening was made possible by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Chicago and the Consulate General of the Philippines in Chicago. Rescue in The Philippines is a one-hour documentary of the previously untold story of how the five Frieder brothers, Cincinnati businessmen making two-for-a-nickel cigars in pre-WWII Manila, together with Manuel Quezon, the charismatic president of the Philippines, Paul McNutt, US High Commissioner and former governor of Indiana and an ambitious Army Colonel named Dwight Eisenhower – helped 1,200 Jews escape the Nazis and immigrate to the Philippines.
The film dramatically shares this almost forgotten story of how the Frieder family from Cincinnati, Ohio and their poker card playing buddies President Manuel L. Quezon, US High Commissioner and former governor of Indiana Paul Mcnutt, and Colonel Dwight Eisenhower, planned the escape of 1,200 Jews from the Nazis and immigrate to the Philippines. It’s remarkable to learn about this little-known story of Philippine President Quezon and his poker player buddies saved 1,200 Jewish lives during World War II.
After watching the film, I cannot help conclude that the connection between Israel and the Philippines does not only remain in the past but continues to the present. In 2016, the Philippine Embassy in Israel estimates that there are about 31,000 Filipinos, mostly Filipina caregivers, domestic workers and health care workers working and living in Israel. A large majority of them are concentrated in the cities of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa (Profile of the Filipino Communities in Israel, 2016). There is also a considerable number of Filipinos working in Beersheva, Netanya, Rehovot and Rishon Lezion. My aunt used to work as a domestic worker outside Tel Aviv.
After watching the film, I reflected about my own personal connections with Israel. From 2009 to 2013, I visited Israel several times to learn about the best practices of Jewish Americans giving back to Israel. From their diaspora giving best practices, I emulated and adopted my current philanthropy practices with the Bayanihan Foundation. It was in Israel I learned the best practices of diaspora philanthropy, of giving hope to others. I cannot help but make these connections and drew a circle of giving – of how a Philippine President helped saved Jewish lives from the Holocaust. Now, thousands of Filipino caregivers continue to give healthcare and assist thousands of Jewish elderly in Israel. The circle of life and giving continues…
“Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” The Talmud