Defending Our Future. Protecting Our Past.
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Defending Our Future. Protecting Our Past.
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Of Israel's estimated 165,000 Holocaust Survivors, roughly one in three lives alone and in poverty. For much of their daily social interaction, they rely on Israel's social clubs and nursing homes to supplement their health and welfare.
The Abraham Global Peace Initiative (AGPI) quietly answered the call of many Holocaust survivor agencies by sponsoring social and educational programs that enhance the lives of survivors.
FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS: Max Eisen (Z"L) survived Auschwitz. He committed his life to Holocaust education and awareness. His memoir, By Chance Alone, won the prestigious Canada Reads Award. For his contribution to Canada, he had won many awards and 4 Honorary Doctorates and the Order of Canada. Max Eisen passed away on July 6, 2022 at 93 years old.
Before his passing, and with his permission, The Abraham Global Peace Initiative established "The Max Eisen Holocaust Education Fund". Funds raised in his honour focus on carrying forward his work in Holocaust education and remembrance.
He was a man on a mission, and was relentless in his quest to save humanity
Max was keenly aware that his fight was against time and this drove him on a singular and relentless mission to heal the world and make it a better place for the entire human race. He was a man on a mission, and was relentless in his quest to save humanity.
At an early age, Max witnessed the cruelty that human beings could inflict upon each other. As a child, his antisemitic teacher made him sit at the back of the classroom with his Jewish classmates. He felt the pain of isolation, marginalization and dehumanization as his non-Jewish friends and neighbours turned against him, and as his family was eventually driven from their home and packed onto a train to Auschwitz.
It was 1944 and the war was nearly over. The Nazis were losing, but their hatred of the Jewish people was so complete and persistent that even Max and his family could not escape the horrible nightmare unfolding before their eyes.
He was torn from his mother’s warm embrace on the train tracks at Auschwitz. He never saw her or his siblings ever again. He naively asked a fellow prisoner where they were taken a while later, only to find out that they were gassed and went up the chimney like so many other poor souls.
Fortunately, Max was selected for slave labour alongside his father and uncle. They protected him as best they could for a while longer, while Max adapted to this hell on earth. Yet soon enough, they too fell ill and seconds before he was taken to the gas chamber, Max’s father made him swear a promise that would echo throughout time and place: “Tell our story. Tell the world what happened here at Auschwitz. Never forget us.”
In time, Max regained his freedom and built a new life and a new family in Canada. In the 78 years that followed the Holocaust, Max dedicated himself to the relentless pursuit of justice.
But eventually, Max began to see the creep of antisemitism once again, years before it would become obvious. Over the past decade, he became alarmed by what he was seeing on university campuses.
He was shocked by the boycott movements against Israel, which reminded him of the very antisemitism his family experienced when their own businesses were boycotted or confiscated by the Nazis. This drove Max to press harder to educate more and more people about the consequence of hate and intolerance.
Throughout most of his life, his energy was completely focused on keeping the promise he made to his father. During our 10 educational trips to Auschwitz, Max never showed anger or despair. He dedicated himself completely to education. During the COVID-19 pandemic, and despite his failing health (which he kept quiet), Max would speak on Zoom two or three times a day to thousands of students from around the world. He not only taught them about the Holocaust, he made them promise to be kind, compassionate and caring people.
In his final years, Max became a moral compass to millions of Canadians. His best-selling memoir, “By Chance Alone,” would impact hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and the public alike. His exposure on television programs like “60 Minutes” and other newscasts increased his ability to affect millions of people.
Among his numerous well-deserved awards were four honorary doctorates and the Order of Canada. Like the closing of a loop or the transfer of a baton, the last recognition award he received happened to be from the Abraham Global Peace Initiative, the foundation he helped me launch just one year ago, and which also named a Holocaust education fund in his honour.
Max gave us everything he had and asked for nothing in return. Once, as he was giving an eye-witness account at Auschwitz in front of Block 21, a ray of light pierced the clouds and beamed upon him like a spotlight. He was there to pass on a message — a warning — to humanity, to never be silent in the face of injustice.
His contribution to this nation will yet be written in its history books. One day soon, schools will be named after him as a show of defiance against hate and intolerance. Max chose life. He showed us that even after tragedy, there is a life worth living through meaning. I will miss my teacher, my mentor and my friend. Shalom Chaver.
Avi Benlolo is the founder and chairman of the Abraham Global Peace Initiative.