Promoting the Connection Between Albania and Canada



By: ELAD BENARI  
Published: August 7th 2010
in News » Local

The Jewish Street, Vlora, Albania
Pic: Dr. Anna Kohen
Shopkeeper in Kruje, Albania holding up her family's Yad Vashem Certificate
Pic: Rachel Algom, Tel Aviv
Vera Held

Held is scheduled to leave for Albania on August 31 and return to Toronto on September 11. During her trip she will meet government officials, meet with members of the Jewish community in Albania, and even conduct interviews with Holocaust survivors. She’ll be spending Rosh Hashanah in Yoanina, Greece, with the Romaniote Jewish community, where she will be interviewing a Holocaust survivor.

 

She said that there is a very limited number of Jews left in Albania today. “There’s one woman I hope to be meeting, Luiza Konomi in Tirana. I think she’s in the vast minority.”

 

Held said she was very much looking forward to her trip. “It’s a small place and it’s a third world country, and it’s not part of the European Union yet, but I can tell you it’s an unspoiled natural place and the people there are very very hospitable. One colleague e-mailed me and said ‘Vera, people here will take the shirts off their back to make sure you’re okay on the trip.’ And that is a comfort to me.

 

“My goal as an educator is to promote tolerance,” she added. “I’m doing this because I want to give the Albanians a pat on the back for a job well done. I think what they did was marvelous, and I think it goes to show just how much a little kindness and a little hospitality can go a long way.”

 

Once she returns to Toronto, Held is planning on taking the information she has gathered and teaching it to the local Jewish community. One such session will take place during Holocaust Education Week, on November 7.

 

Held said that additional teaching sessions are possible, but she has yet to decide on their form.  Planning such sessions, she explained, will be easier to do after the trip. “I’ve got to go and I’ve got to do it, I’ve got to feel it, I’ve got to see it, and see what comes at the end. But I know what my goals are and my goals are clear: I want to promote better ties and better connections between the Albanian and Canadian communities. I also want to bring together Jewish Canadians and Albanians because I think they can learn from us and we can learn from them, and I want to promote tolerance and I think Albania is going to be an incredible destination spot for travel, because, to quote a colleague who lives there ‘It’s the last unspoiled spot in Europe to go.’”

 

Vera Held will be speaking about her experiences in Albania on Sunday, November 7, at 7:00pm at Sala Caboto in Villa Colombo, 40 Playfair Ave., Toronto (Dufferin and Lawrence). The program will be a part of Holocaust Education Week.

 

For more information on this and all the other programs taking place during Holocaust Education Week, visit www.holocausteducationweek.com.

 

Vera Held speaking on a local Albanian television show on the role of Albanians saving Jews during the Holocaust:

 

Related articles: (Albania, Holocaust, Vera Held, Besa)

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