October 10, 2005

Bulgarian church receives recognition for saving Jews during WWII

Members of the Bulgarian Church were recognized for their role in stopping the deportations of the Bulgarian Jews to the death camps. The Metropolitan Bishops Stephan and Kiril receive an award in a ceremony following the NY Premiere of the film The Optimists: The Story of the Rescue of the Bulgarian Jews from the Holocaust. The documentary focuses on how the Bulgarian people helped their Jewish friends and neighbors and stopped the deportation of the majority of Bulgarian Jews.

The event was sponsored by The Consulate General of Israel in New York, The Consulate General of Bulgaria in New York, The American Society for Yad Vashem, The American Jewish Committee, The American Sephardic Federation, The Center for Jewish History and organized in collaboration with The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation

Esme Berg, Excecutive Director of the American Sephardi Federation and H.E. Arye Mekel, Consul General of Israel in New York, opened the event with some remarks.

Following the screening of the film, Father Dmitri Dmitroff a metropolitan of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church accepted an award on behalf of the two Bulgarian Metropolitans highlighted in the film, Bishop Stephan and Bishop Kiril, whose acts of defiance during the war helped save 50,000 Bulgarian Jews from deportation. The award was presented by Dr. David Elcott, the Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee.

H.E. Arye Mekel, Consul General of Israel in New York, H.E. Stefan Tafrov, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Bulgaria to the UN, H.E. Elena Poptodorova, Bulgarian Ambassador to the United States; Nikolay Milkov, Consul General of Bulgaria in New York; Victoria Schonfeld, Honorary Bulgarian Consul in New York and Abigail Tenembaum, Vice President of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation., were some of the distinguished participants at the ceremony.

Film producer and director Jacky Comforty and H.E. Elena Poptodorova, the Bulgarian Ambassador the United States, were available for a question and answer session where Bulgarians living in New York had the opportunity to express their gratitude to the director for the production of the film. Comforty told the audience about the almost twenty years it took to finalize the film, ”I didn’t make the film for my mother, who appears and was saved by the Bulgarian people, I did it in order to educate the world about the great deeds of these people and about how one person can really change the course of history”.