HIAS Spotlights Those Who Put Service First

Jerry Ehrlich spent roughly two months treating patients at a makeshift medical camp in Darfur, Sudan.

Elaine Webster and Amanda Dawson work here to tutor a refugee family from Ethiopia.

And Mary Yee provides language services to immigrant and refugee students in the Philadelphia School District.

These were just some of the outreach efforts lauded by HIAS and Council Migration Service at its 125th annual luncheon this week.

The event, which was held in the Jewish Community Services Building, was attended by nearly 100 staff members, clients, donors and award winners.

Gideon Aronoff, the national director of HIAS in New York, also traveled in for the event.

The program began with a few words from the organization's new president, Norm Weinstein, who spoke about "a personal obligation to assist others in need."

A Difficult Journey

"I will remember my grandparents and great-grandparents who made that hard journey here," he said, holding up a picture of a samovar his grandmother brought all the way over from Lithuania. "I pledge to follow the Jewish teaching of helping the stranger."

Many of the awardees, including Ehrlich, who also served as the keynote speaker, were honored for doing just that.

During his presentation, the pediatrician from Cherry Hill, N.J., shared photographs from his 2004 trip to Darfur. Ehrlich, now 72, made the trip as a member of Doctors Without Borders.

Many of the patients he described suffered from severe malnutrition, while others experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the doctor.

"I had about 200 patients at all times," he said. "These people were totally dependent on independent humanitarian organizations for food, water, medical care."

Ehrlich also told the audience about a little experiment he conducted: While he was in the refugee camp, the doctor asked a number of children to draw pictures. Much of the artwork that came back depicted bloody scenes — burning huts, lifeless bodies, planes with bombs.

"I got the idea from the children's artwork of Theresienstadt," said Ehrlich, referring to the drawings created by youngsters at a Czech concentration camp during the Holocaust.

After receiving a standing ovation from the audience, Ehrlich accepted the Global Citizen Award from HIAS executive director Judith Bernstein-Baker, who noted that Ehrlich "sets a high standard for all of us in humanitarianism."



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