December 30, 2010

Tribute to John XXIII from a Nobel Peace Prize candidate.


Baruj Tenembaum, a ”descendant of slaves”

Rome, Wednesday, December 30, 2009 ( – Among the top listed candidates to the Nobel Peace Prize, eventually conferred to President Barak Obama, was Barucj Tenembaum, the founder of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, as confirmed by PRIO, a prestigious and independent academic institute from Oslo, Norway.

On the other hand, Ladbroke, the famous betting agency from London, gave Tenembaum better odds of winning the Nobel, than some high ranking personalities from the international politics such as Nicholas Sarkozy or Tony Blair.

ZENIT has asked Tenembaum, a Jew of Argentinean origin, a pioneer of the inter-religious dialog since the period of Paul VI, what is the reason, in his opinion, for such an interest in his persona and work. ”Who am I”, asks Baruj Tenembaum with modesty, ”I’m not going to refer to that particular matter, since I do not consider myself that important, after all”. ”Who am I?” – he continues to ask himself. ”To be sure, I am the descendant of slaves, of those Jews who worked in Egypt under the whip of the pharaohs, to be freed by Moses later on.

”I’m as Jewish as my brothers who were expelled from Portugal and Spain, who continue missing the Peninsula in their native language: Ladino”, he clarifies.

I’m as Jewish as the ones that were persecuted throughout Europe by way of pogroms, and, also like those six millions annihilated by Hitler(s), in plural”.

”Then, with all the sincerity and modesty: ”Who am I?”, he continues to ask himself.

”I’m just a simple son of settlers who dedicates his life to thank those human beings who saved lives, who risked themselves. The Wallenbergs, the Souza Dantas’s, the Sousa Mendes’s, more then 20,000 gentiles, non-Jews, to whom we owe gratitude, remembrance, and the education of our future generations”.

”At the Wallenberg Foundation we work intensively to dis-cover, among others, the exceptional deeds of those heroic human beings.”

This way, he admits, he was able to ”dis-cover” ”in archives, museums, churches, synagogues, libraries, from his own assistants”, the scope of Angelo Roncalli’s figure, who during WWII, as diplomatic representative of Piux XII in various countries, carried out a brave work to helping the persecuted Jews, as a diplomatic representative of Pio XII in different countries.

”Time and time again, he recognizes, we cannot but feel deeply moved into tears from our eyes when we learn of the feats of this simple, modest and great son of the Italian people, who acted in totally adverse circumstances to save, for example, children exposed to the shadows of hell, breaking and destroying prejudices, going beyond what implied by the rules”.

”Ever so often we imagine Roncalli in prayer, also in the presence of others, asking his driver to stop in front of the Roman synagogue so that he can pray for his Jewish brothers”, explains Tenembaum.

”Or, when he received a delegation of Jews in the Vatican, lifting his hands and exclaimed from the Pope’s seat: ”I’m John, your brother”.

Then, once again: ”Who am I”, asks himself Baruj Tenembaum, ”What survives, what remains, what is important, what is nobel noble, is to underscore what what sur-vives, for example: Angelo Roncalli.

Therefore, he concludes: ”There are thing in life more important then life itself”