Commission Memorial to First Female Rabbi Dedicated
Commission Member Gary P. Zola and Chair Lesley Weiss at the Terezin Memorial in
the Czech Republic in front of a plaque memorializing the first woman to become a rabbi.
The Commission sponsored the plaque recalling Rabbi Regina Jonas of Germany, who
was imprisoned at the Nazi's Thereisenstadt concentration camp before being sent to her
death at Auschwitz. The plaque was dedicated in a ceremony July 24th in which the
women who were the first ordinees of their denominations as well as the first Orthodox
woman to be ordained "Rabba" participated. Representatives of the Terezin Memorial
and the Jewish Women's Archive also spoke. Dr. Zola initiated the plaque project.
Funding was donated by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
Memorial to Jews of Bardejov, Slovakia Killed in Holocaust Dedicated
Bardejov, Slovak Republic Mayor Boris Hanuscak shakes hands with Commission Chair
Lesley Weiss and Member Emil Fish at the dedication June 24th of a major memorial to
the 3,262 Jews of the city and the surrounding area murdered in the Holocaust. The three
(and another dedication program participant) are standing in front of the memorial's walls
naming the victims. Fish built the memorial with the encouragement and support of the
Commission through the Bardejov Jewish Preservation Committee that he founded and
heads. He is a native of the city who was imprisoned at the Nazi's Bergen-Belsen
concentration camp before emigrating to the United States.
Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) presented Chairwoman Weiss with the Jewish Heritage
Celebration's Jewish Heritage Appreciation Award at the U.S. Capitol May 7th. House
of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), Senator Bill
Nelson (D-FL), and Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz joined Cardin in praising
the Chairwoman's work.
Commission Chair Lesley Weiss (right) and Member Jules Fleischer (left) with U.S.
Ambassador to Sweden Mark Brzezinski July 9th before the posthumous award of the
Congressional Gold Medal to Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg for saving tens of
thousands of Hungarians who were Jewish during the Holocaust.
About the Commission
The Commission is an independent agency of the Government of the United States of America. It was established by U.S. Public Law 99-83. The law directs the Commission to—
- identify and report on cemeteries, monuments, and historic buildings in Eastern and Central Europe that are associated with the heritage of U.S. citizens, particularly endangered properties, and
- obtain, in cooperation with the Department of State, assurances from the governments of the region that the properties will be protected and preserved.
In addition to the types of sites specified in the law, the Commission also seeks the preservation of similar types of properties, including related archival material. It, additionally, encourages and facilitates private and foreign government restoration and preservation projects.
The establishment of the Commission recognized that the population of the United States is mostly comprised of immigrants and their descendents. Because it is, the United States has an interest in the preservation of sites in other countries. These sites are an important part of the cultural heritage of many Americans.
The Holocaust and 45 years of atheistic, Communist governments created a critical need that led to the Commission’s establishment. The Holocaust annihilated much of Europe’s Jewish population, killing most Jews and forcing others to flee. In many countries, none were left to continue to care for the communal properties that represented an historic culture in the area and constitute an integral part of the Jewish religion. (Burial places are sacred in Judaism)
The destruction, desecration, and deterioration of properties under the Nazis persisted under subsequent Communist regimes. Additionally, Cold War tensions hindered access by Americans who wanted to ensure preservation of the sites.
Many properties continue to be endangered. Governments and communities in the region face fundamental and competing challenges. Some Jewish sites have also been affected by a resurgence of anti-Semitism.
The Commission was established in 1985 by Public Law 99-83. It began its operations when it received its first appropriation in Fiscal Year 1990.
The Commission consists of 21 Members appointed by the President. Of these, seven are appointed in consultation with the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and seven are appointed in consultation with the President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate. The Members are appointed for three-year terms, although they continue to serve until they are replaced. They are not paid for their service.
One Member is designated by the President to chair the Commission. The current Chair is the Honorable Lesley Weiss of Washington, DC.
The Commission is required to meet every six months. It is assisted by a small staff.
On a day-to-day basis, much of the Commission’s work consists of addressing problems regarding specific sites that are raised by U.S. citizens, federal officials, or others, and assisting U.S. citizens and groups with restoration, preservation and site marking projects.
Assistance is generally provided through interventions with foreign government officials and sometimes provided through Commission sponsorship or co-sponsorship of the projects. In some cases, technical assistance is provided, funds are raised, and the Commission receives contributions on a tax-deductible basis and transfers the monies to local contractors for Americans.