We were 880 Strong on the Night of August 23, 2019
at the Saban Theatre. Our Voices Were Heard!
A HISTORY OF EMPATHY
Chiune Sugihara (1900-1986) was the Japanese consul in Kaunas, Lithuania, who saved over 2,000 Polish Jewish refugees during World War II by issuing Japanese transit visas that allowed them to escape to the Far East.
Sugihara served with the Japanese military government in Manchuria, where he was promoted to vice minister of foreign affairs. Troubled by Japanese treatment of the Chinese, he resigned his post in 1934 and returned to Japan, where he met and married Yukiko Kikuchi. The following year he was reassigned to the European section of the foreign ministry, and in 1937 was posted to the Japanese embassy in Helsinki, Finland. In October 1939 Sugihara was instructed to open a consulate in Kaunas, Lithuania for the purpose of gathering information on German and Soviet troop movements along the border. Shortly after his arrival, a wave of Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi invasion of Poland, flooded into Lithuania seeking a means of escape from Europe.
Towards the end of July 1940, Sugihara was approached by Dr. Zorah Warhaftig of the Jewish Agency Palestine Office, who requested that he provide Japanese transit visas to Polish Jewish refugees in Lithuania.
Realizing the danger facing the Jewish refugees in Lithuania, Sugihara appealed to his superiors for permission to issue the transit visas, noting in his cables that hundreds of refugees lined up outside the consulate each day hoping to receive them. When that permission was denied, he decided to issue them on his own authority, disregarding the possible consequences for his career.
For several weeks in late July and early August 1940, Sugihara issued visas at a furious pace, eventually stamping more than 2,000 passports before his consulate was closed down by the Soviet authorities. When he left Kaunas, Sugihara went briefly to Berlin before assuming a series of new postings to Prague (September 1940-February 1941), Koenigsberg (March-October 1941) and finally Bucharest (fall 1941-summer 1944). At the end of the war he and his family were arrested by the Soviet military. They were held under benign conditions until their repatriation in 1947. When he returned to Japan, Sugihara was dismissed from the foreign service with a small pension. In the years after the war Sugihara never spoke of his actions in Kaunas, and it was not until 1968 that he was honored by those whom he rescued. In 1985, a year before his death, he was recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.
AN EVENT TO INSPIRE THIS AND FUTURE GENERATIONS
Join Japanese American actor and activist George Takei, along with actor and activist Anne-Marie Johnson as we honor Chiune Sugihara, an inspiration to all of us who reach beyond our own cultures by building bridges to other cultures. His efforts to save those who faced oppression, imprisonment and certain death were accomplished at a huge cost to him and to his family. Facing his own incarceration, Sugihara saved countless lives if you factor in the children that came from the souls that he saved.
Our program will begin with a Shabbat service at the iconic Saban Theatre on Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills. Officiated by Rabbi David Baron, with music by Sharon Farber - Rabbi Baron, Cantor Ilysia Pierce and Music Director Sharon Farber will deliver a memorable and spiritual beginning to our evening.
Japanese composer and pianist Kae Matsumoto will perform a specially arranged version of Keith Emerson’s “Land of the Rising Sun”. The late Keith Emerson was a founding member of the progressive rock trio Emerson, Lake and Palmer. “Land of the Rising Sun” was dedicated to the Japanese people after the horrific impact of the massive earthquake and tsunamis that ravaged Japan in March of 2011. Performed with a string quartet and the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles, maestra Matsumoto will segue this powerful piece into Diane Warren’s “A Note to God” with a surprise vocalist appearing.
Remembrances and reflections on Sugihara will be moderated by George Takei with special celebrity guests. Actor Anne-Marie Johnson will join George in presenting Chiune Sugihara’s son, Nobuki Sugihara.
A special pre-performance event is being planned at an undisclosed location for Thursday, August 22 - created for those who do not travel on Shabbat.
YOUR DONATIONS SUPPORT NOT ONLY THE EVENT, BUT THE CREATION AND DISTRIBUTION OF TEACHER’S GUIDES, MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL CURRICULUM AND CONTENT, THAT WILL INSPIRE CHILDREN TO ALSO PERFORM ACTS OF HUMANITY THAT IMPACT OTHER CULTURES.
Your donation of $100 or more will get you into our private VIP reception where you can meet and greet our performers. Your name will also be listed in our program.
Your donation of $500 or more will get you a special framed award from The Man/Kind Project, congratulating you on your humanity! Your name will also be listed in our program.
Your donation of $1000 or more will get you a limited edition, signed program, along with a special framed award from The Man/Kind Project, congratulating you on your humanity and extreme generosity!