Four people, four humanists, four spreading lights

Humanists of the Year 2018: Laureates of the Rogatchi Foundation

The Beauty of Modesty

Every year, our Foundation awards some outstanding people with HUMANIST OF THE YEAR AWARD. During the years, among those people were world famous pianist and composer Maestro Evgeny Kissin, prominent sculptor Varda Yoran, philanthropist, history and art expert Glynn Cohen, Ambassador Dr Elisabeth Kehrer, the author of the POLIN Museum, architect, professor Rainer Mahlamäki, and many others.

Maestro Kissin was graciously supporting Jewish orphans on request of our Foundation; Varda Yoram, the widow of legendary Shalom Yoran, survivor, fighter and the one of the founding fathers of the Israeli aviation industry was supporting the Outreach to Humanity programs launched by our Foundation. Glynn Cohen is the one of the key-persons behind restoration of the Michelangelo’s David in Florence and numerous art charitable activities restoring and maintaining the treasures of the world’s cultural heritage in Italy. Dr Elisabeth Kehrer whose diploma was on Paul Celan led the initiative to honour Simon Wiesenthal and his legacy at the high level in her capacity of the Ambassador of Austria.

Professor Rainer Mahlamäki whose POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews has been defined as the Best Museum in the world is continuing his projects on the Memorial Architecture world-wide, with ongoing The Lost Shtetl Museum and Educational Centre, thus continuously making concrete impact onto the international landscape of memory in the strong positive resolution.

It is important to notice that all our laureates, without a single exception, are emphatically modest people. While thinking on all of them together, one can see how really beautiful the virtue of modesty is. In the one of life’s rarely nice paradoxes, modesty shines – if one is able to see its subdued beauty.

The point of our Humanist of the Year Award is that while the activities of our laureates often connected to the Jewish themes, it always affect society and life in general and widely. It brings in more compassion, more understanding, more kindness. This is what humanism is all about. For various reasons,  today we are facing the acute shortage of that essential vitamin for life, humanism. 

We chose to recognise and award the humanists of our time because they are the rare individuals who are generating more oxygen for all of us to breath. They and what they do invariably generates warmth, love and light.

Our laureates are always getting individual Special Diplomas for their achievement in particular activities and Art Awards which always are created specifically for each of them. We decided to differ from the tradition of having one and same sign of recognition , to be able to award our laureates in the special way by creating for them a unique piece of art which would speak to their hearts.

Four Lights-Spreading People

The component of increased light is the reason of why we are announcing the Humanist of the Year laureates at the time of Hanukkah. This year, the number of our laureates is four. And we have announced their names on the fours night of Hanukkah 5779, to correspond to four lights of it.

Inna Rogatchi (C). Hannukah. Night IV. Light of the Light series. 2015.

Our laureates this year all are wonderful people, each prolific in their field, but also widely known publicly because the results of their activities does resonate with the general public for years. However, according to the rules of our Award, we are keeping in attention the achievements of our laureates specifically in a given year.

Among our laureates for 2018, there are two ladies and two gentlemen. They are scientist, historian, art scholar, and film director. They represent both Europe and USA: Israel, France, Italy, Lithuania and USA. They are superb professionals in their fields of medicine, arts, history and cinema.

Except of a nice new fact that they all are laureates of the same Award now, they do have much more important feature in common: the results of their tireless, difficult, devoted efforts is unmistakably reaches out to vast number of people, in many countries, in every strata of society, for every age. It reaches out with positive message, with warm attention, with loving kindness. And this is what is active humanism is about.

Arts as a Medicine

Professor Domenica Taruscio, Rome, Italy. Founder of Il Volo di Pegaso Italian National Arts, Literature and Music Award.

Professor Domenica Taruscio is a very busy woman. She leads the Italian National Institute for Rare Diseases which is a full-time work of its own. She also was recently elected to become the chair of the super-busy organisation, International Rare Diseases Research Consortium ( IRDRC). As you would be told by specialists, rare diseases are very special area which is in the centre of a paradox: due to peculiarities of the diseases, it ought to have a special, high-up attention, but in fact, it does not; it suffers the needed attention and resources precisely because all of it in medical practice and public attention goes to mass-spread diseases, like heart, lung, cancer, and alike. So, the specialists in that exceptional – and vital for many – area all are real enthusiasts, like our laureate professor Taruscio.

More, Domenica was willing and able to found and organise an exceptional phenomena in the Italian humanitarian sphere. More than decade ago, she got an idea of organising Il Volo di Pegaso national Italian award for arts, literature and music, thus continuing ever long Italian tradition of applying arts, letters and music to cure the society, sometime literally so, and to apply it to our modern life. Today, Il Volo di Pegaso has become a well-known institution in Italy, the experience which ought to be applied in any other country that would like to help to its citizens to live happily and decently, being comforted in delicate and warm way even, and especially, being not well.

Under professor Taruscio’s guidance, the Italian national arts, music and literature Award embraces all categories of people, children, teenagers and adults. It applies to both professionals and amateurs. It includes also sick people who would like to do something artistic – and I have to tell that their works are amazingly good. The humanist effect of the work of professor Taruscio and her colleagues is immense. Very importantly, it is sustainable and enduring.

Professor Taruscio’s scientific and medical colleagues were mobilised by her ideas and initiative to bring their own brilliant and fascinating research on direct influence of arts, music and poetry onto the various malfunctions of human body, and accumulate their pioneering research and knowledge into the effort of curing various diseases by culture assets. This is real, this is ongoing, this brings cure. And what a wonderful people are working in this fascinating area, kind, understanding, aspiring.

Earlier this year, professor Taruscio had organised  high-level Italian National Conference dedicated to the X anniversary of the one-of-a kind Il Volo di Pegaso feast of curing culture. While attending the conference, the representative of our Foundation were melted away not only by the top-level science coming to public domain in a generous portion, but also by the manifestation of real harmony and real care. There was no doubt that the person who had the vision and will to make it all happen should be recognised as the one of the HUMANISTS OF THE YEAR 2018 by our Foundation, for Outstanding Contribution Into the Humanist Support of Life. Salute, cara dottoressa Domenica Taruscio!

Reflecting the Domenica’s deep love for music and very important for her connection with world of flowers, the special work has been created for our laureate:

Michael Rogatchi(C). Amadeus Waltz. Indian Ink, Oil Pastels on dark blue cotton paper. 35 x 50 cm. 2018. Art Award for prof. Domenica Taruscio. Private collection. Italy.

In this art work, one can see a famous, critically acclaimed image of Amadeus created by Michael in early 1990s and appearing in many of his well-known works, all of them consisting the Mozartiana special collection.

Returning Murdered Artists Back

Dr Rachel Perry, art historian. Israel-USA.

Dr Rachel Perry is devoted art historian. Born in the USA and educated at Harvard, she moved with her family to Paris  and was happy to work there to be indulged into the rich culture history accumulated there. From early 2000s, Rachel’s family is living and working in Israel where she is continuing her distinguished art research and was teaching at the Weiss-Livnat International MBA School on the Holocaust Studies at the Haifa University.  The unique project on the Jewish artists of the Ecole des Paris that has been envisaged and built on by Dr Perry has become a very particular deed, from all and very point of view, scientifically, educationally, artistically, literature-wise, and most of all , humanistically.  

It has been written in detail about this significant contribution into present-day international Memorial Art projects – https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/quand-meme-despite-everything-introduction-to-the-new-exhibition-at-the-hecht-museum/  and https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/homecoming-of-the-ecole-des-vitebsk-analyses-of-the-arrivals-departure-exhibition/

In the case of Dr Rachel Perry, our Foundation also saw the similar to Prof. Taruscio principle of the successful, efficient multi-directed effort in the focused and determined activities of one person who had a vision for achieving major humanist goal, who also did have the determination to apply her vision to her very hard work.

Dr Perry’s unique Arrivals, Departures project included two years of teaching her students, and in this case, it was not only lessons in art, but the lessons of history, and most of all, lessons of memory and compassion, the most valuable knowledge of all. Not only Rachel did literally bring eighteen artists, most of them being murdered in Holocaust, back from oblivion, but she did reconstruct their stories, finding and bringing out the new material and unknown until now detail; she did honour their art work, most of which had been destroyed or robbed; she gave them and their works which was the essence of their destroyed  souls life back. She did all of that at the top professional level and with high-class taste and vision. Rarely among the ocean of present-day art exhibitions and art publications could be found such deeply humanist deed, as the Dr Perry’s Arrivals, Departures special educational and art project. The Rogatchi Foundation Board was very glad to recognise this multi-tasked successful humanist effort, for Outstanding Humanist Effort in Art Education. Thank you, dear Rachel!

To memorialise Dr Perry’s unique idea, we have created a special prize for our laureate, the engraving in solid crystal block after the Michael Rogatchi’s drawing on the archival print of my work on Paris.  The name of the work is coined by Michael, re-dedicating  the Jewish part of the Ecole des Paris into what they really were, the Ecole des Vitebsk :

Ecole des Vitebsk. Engraving in crystal block after the Michael Rogatchi’s drawing on the Inna Rogatchi’s print. 20 x 12 x 8 cm. Unique. 2018. Art Award for Dr Rachel Perry. Private collection. Israel.

Our Nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize

Father Patrick Desbois, founder of the Yaha – in Unum organisation, professor of the Georgetown University.

For a while by now, we at our Foundation are thinking – and will be trying to do it – to nominate Father Patrick Desbois for the Nobel Peace Prize. We do not know any other person who would be more worthy of the recognition. Meanwhile, with a sheer pleasure, our Board has awarded Father Desbois our HUMANIST OF THE YEAR 2018 Award for everything he does since 2003, with a special note on his new book In Broad Daylight published in 2018, for Outstanding Contribution into the Teaching of Humanist Values.

This is the second book of Father Patrick, after his world-bestseller Holocaust by Bullets published in 2008. Both of these books has to be included into any curriculum of the Holocaust studies, would it be schools or university ones, and more than that, it should be included into all curriculum on history world-wide.

Why it that? Because of its honesty, its vital connection between the events 80 years back with current day and its people, us, and because of its solid, unshaken, simple truth and humanism. No decorations, no excuses. No all kinds of explanations of ‘complicated situations’, no moral relativism, that favourite game of decadent qualities of lazy souls.

One man starting in early 2000s on his personal quest for truth originated from his family ( and the great family it is) was able to build the internationally recognised organisation, Yahad- in Unum,  with 30-members team working non-stop in uncovering the truth of the Holocaust in the places it had been never inquired, starting from Ukraine and covering by now all Eastern and Central Europe and the Baltic states, documenting it meticulously, conducting over 6 000 interviews with local people, discovering unknown burial places of thousands of Jewish victims of Holocaust – by bullets, in the ravines and forest, off the camps; creating the extra-ordinary impressive travelling exhibitions of those new discoveries, travelling the world to tell about it, thus bringing important new knowledge on the barbarism of the XX century committed in the Shoah, but most importantly, returning the honour of burial to some of that unimaginable multitude of annihilated people, Jewish people.

In parallel with all that, Father Desbois and his people are working tirelessly and extremely bravely during several last years defending persecuted Yazidis, who are not the subject of interest of all those organisations which suppose to care about such issues.

All this is done by incredible Father Desbois and his people with no fuss at all, in any weather, under rain and heat, with no lime-lights of publicity, with no showing off, just by following his heart and its devotion.

Gaining very well deserved fame world-wide, Father Patrick is speaking now publicly and bravely on the real treat of hatred and anti-Semitism today: do listen to him. His are the words and the actions of real, brave and wise in heart, of exceptional humanist. We are lucky to have such people living among us. They are setting not only a steady sample of light among any darkness. They are defining the direction of our moral compass today. Merci beaucoup,  dearest Father Patrick, for your shining lamp!

Our art award for Father Desbois is specifically created for him painting:

Michael Rogatchi (C). Yiddishe Mama. Oil on canvas. 60 x 50 cm. 2018. Art Award for Father Patrick Desbois. Private collection, France.

In the Father Desbois’ Holocaust by Bullets book, the image of the Jewish mother meeting her death with embracing her baby is coming out many, many times. That image had been seemingly predominating Father Patrick’s mind when he was writing his extraordinary book, after all that horror that the courageous Catholic priest had been seeing endlessly in the forests of Ukraine when discovering unknown burial places of thousands of Jewish victims of the Shoah. In parallel, in the Jewish tradition, the central image of the Jewish mother, the Yiddishe Mama in our case, is also the same – the embrace of the motherly hands over her child. Both in unspeakable tragedy and in ever-lasting tradition of lullaby, the same image appears as a key and a symbol of our undying memory and sustaining us love. This is not a coincidence. This is the ultimate code of Jewish survival. And Michael reflected it in his painting:

Devotion to Truth

Saulius Berzinis, film-director, Lithuania.

Just imagine that you are a film director, well-known and recognised one, with many prizes and public fame; you have all themes in the world opened for you to explore it. But for some reason, you are concentrating on just one of them. You are spending all your time on it, on scrupulous research which prevent you from sleep in the night because of the horror you are learning daily; you are spending all resources that you have on this very uncomfortable theme, not that popular in your country, putting it mildly. You are travelling, you are reading, you are finding. You are talking to people who were silent for decades and who are opening their hearts to you. You know more and more, and also it would feel for a regular person as unbearable, you go on and on. And you are filming all the time. You are editing, you are producing. You are documenting the truth, in the simple, telling, constrained but yet more emotional way because inner emotions are always deeper and felt more strongly. In your case, and the case of your theme, the one that you did choose consciously, those inner deep emotions are felts like scars on your soul.

But you are still doing it.

This is the case of Saulius Berzinis, famed Lithuanian film director, the author of more than 20 films on Holocaust. The rare man, workaholic, with vast knowledge on his subject. The man with unsatiated thirst for truth.

Saulius has founded quite well known and very valuable in its rich material Independent Holocaust Research Archive , and this year he has decided to donate his invaluable archive to the forthcoming The Lost Shtetl Museum and Memorial Centre – more detail on that special project can be read here – https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-sense-of-place-reconstructing-the-jewish-life-in-lithuania/ and https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/finding-the-lost-shtetl-dilemmas-of-applied-memory/

To realise the meaning of such gesture, one needs to know Saulius Berzinis and his life-work. For this world-class professional, his footage is integral part of himself. It is all his life. Deciding to donate his entire archive to the forthcoming The Lost Shtetl Museum, great Lithuanian film director, who is also a very kind person, has ensured that the present and future generations will be able to have the documented truth on the Holocaust in Lithuania and also very valuable, unique documented material on the Litvaks worldwide, including Israel and South Africa, in all its richness and authenticity. Rarely a man could make more generous contribution into the living memory of his country and the world. Our Foundation awarded Saulius Berzinis for Outstanding Contribution into the Collective Memory on Holocaust. Deep Thank You, dear Saulis, Labai aciu!

Our art award to film director Saulius Berzinis reflects his love, interest, and understanding of people, every single one, especially those whose destiny had been cut off so brutally. My art work created specially for Saulius Berzinis is called Songs of Our Souls II:

Inna Rogatchi (C). Song of Our Souls II. Drawing on archival print. 50 x 40 cm. 2018. Art Award for film maker Saulius Berzinis. Private collection, Lithuania.

For the first, smaller version of this work, I have created a musical video which shows it in detail.

Our Foundation is very glad to be able to recognise all our wonderful laureates for their unique, devoted, very meaningful and significant efforts in what could be called applied humanism. This, if anything, is the best life-improving vitamin. We are cordially grateful to these great people, real-life practicing humanists, our laureates who are bringing more light into the life of us all.

Thank you, dear friends.

Inna Rogatchi

© December 2018

About the Author
Inna Rogatchi is internationally acclaimed writer, scholar and film-maker, the author of widely prized film on Simon Wiesenthal The Lessons of Survival. Her professional trade-mark is inter-weave of history, culture and mentality. She is the author of the concept of the Outreach to Humanity cultural and educational projects conducted internationally by The Rogatchi Foundation of which Inna is the co-founder and President. She is the wife of the world renowned artist Michael Rogatchi. Inna's family is related to the famous Rose-Mahler musical dynasty. Her professional interests are focused on Jewish heritage, Holocaust and post-Holocaust, arts and culture. She is twice laureate of the Italian Il Volo di Pegaso Italian National Art, Literature and Music Award, the Patmos Solidarity Award, and the New York Jewish Children's Museum Award for Outstanding Contribution into the Arts and Culture (together with her husband).
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