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'Righteous Gentile' Honored 49 Years After Holocaust Leader of Segregated All-black Army Unit Saved Lives of Jewish Teens
RUMSON, NJ - April 1, 2004 /Send2Press Newswire/ -- Forty-nine years after he saved
the lives of two young Jewish teenagers by hiding them within the ranks of his Army
unit, former Lieutenant John Withers is being honored by Congregation B'nai Israel.
The ceremony will take place on April 18, 2004, at 7:30 p.m. in conjunction with the
synagogue's Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance service.
"John Withers represents the best of America and the best of humanity," said Rabbi
Jack Rosoff. "He extended a helping hand at substantial personal risk to save the
lives of two teenage boys. It is important for people to know that there are those
in the world who will put themselves at risk for people in need," he added.
Near the end of World War II, a time when the U.S. Army was segregated, Withers lead
an all-black supply convoy unit in Germany. In direct violation of Army orders and
at the risk of a dishonorable discharge, Withers hid two Jewish teenagers within the
ranks of his truck company for over a year. The two, both survivors of Dachau
concentration camp, were literally sores, skin and bones when they came to the unit,
and stayed for more than a year becoming stronger, healthier and learning English
from Withers and his men.
At the time, Withers fought for freedoms that he, as a Black American, could not
enjoy black soldiers rode separately from whites and were expected to step aside when
a white walked by. Yet, he understood the difference between right and wrong, and
knew that leaving these young men, whose families were killed in the Holocaust, was
Because of his heroic humanitarian acts, Withers has earned the title "Righteous
Gentile," a named given by the Jewish community to those who saved the lives of Jews
before and during the Holocaust.
In a recent interview published in the Wall Street Journal, Withers said of his
decision to hide the boys, "I think I identified with them very strongly and
Dr. John L. Withers, now 87 years old, is a retired Foreign Service Officer, who
served in Laos, Thailand, Burma, Korea, Ethiopia, Kenya and India. He served in the
U.S. Army from 1941 to 1947.
A presentation that crosses all religious and cultural lines, the event will include
music from the Congregation B'nai Israel choir, as well as the 60-voice Emanuel
Baptist Church choir from nearby Tinton Falls.
Founded in 1922, Congregation B'nai Israel, on the corners of Hance and Ridge Roads,
is one of the oldest conservative synagogues in Monmouth County. For directions and
more information, contact the B'nai Israel office at 732-842-1800.
Organization Website: n/a
Source of News:
Creative Approach, Inc., for Congregation B'nai Israel of Greater Red Bank, NJ
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