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Let us not judge our real friends

Dismissing claims that Mike Evans, who funds a Holocaust survivors center in Jerusalem, has a missionary agenda

In an op-ed column recently published on this site,  I was both shocked and deeply disturbed to read an all-out attack on a man I consider to be a dear friend and a trusted supporter of the people of Jerusalem and Israel, Dr. Mike Evans.

In that column, the author, a journalist who attended a recent event at a shelter that I and fellow survivors of the Holocaust rely on for social and religious programing and was opened through Dr. Evans’ generosity, alleged that his charity should be rejected because of supposed links that he has to missionary activity within the American Christian community.

I will begin my response speaking personally. My entire life has been dedicated to being a “survivor” in every sense. As a young child, I was forced to endure the worst humanity had to offer and lost dear loved ones to the Nazi evil. Yet, I chose to never let those experiences destroy me. I committed myself to building a new life, one of pride and hard work. I went on to become a doctor and as a gynecologist helped thousands of women bring children into the world, and offer some small degree of revenge for the millions the Nazis eradicated. I eventually moved to Israel, built a family and proudly have children and grandchildren who serve in the IDF and directly contribute to the modern development of the Jewish State.

Several years ago I travelled to Germany and visited the estate in Wansee where the Final Solution was decided upon. With a quivering hand and tears streaming down my face, I signed the site’s guestbook with a very simple message written in Hebrew: “Hitler, I won.”

My purpose in offering this personal background is not to elicit compassion. It is rather to state that I am not ignorant to the realities of the world or a weak old woman who will simply welcome charity from any source. I am an intelligent and proud mother and professional who fully investigated who Dr. Evans was and is today before accepting his generosity, which has helped myself and more than 120 of my fellow survivors to live out our lives in dignity.

I read the column feeling that the author believed that Dr. Evans was “taking advantage” of us because of our age or our feeble status as immigrant survivors. That allegation is deeply insulting and simply wrong.
As an accomplished medical researcher, I also feel it prudent to address the author’s methods, which are almost exclusively based on evidence from more than three decades ago and focus on the fact that Dr. Evans is a today a proud believer in Christian theology. The allegation implies that because Dr. Evans has those beliefs he must certainly be involved in missionary activity and is therefore using his charity to influence the thinking of Jews living here in Jerusalem. Nothing could be further from the truth. Statements cited in that column taken out of context and attributed to him in 1977 are in no ways indicative of the man that Dr. Evans is today.

I know that Dr. Evans was not able to defend his dignity and respond to the arguments put forth in the column. But had he been given the chance, perhaps people would have seen that there is far more to this man than meets the eye. I and my colleagues have spent many hours with Dr. Evans and not once has he sent any message that bordered on missionary activity. He has of course clearly conveyed his love for Christianity and the belief that the security and sanctity of modern Jerusalem and Israel is central to the theology he and his fellow Christians embrace as the will of God.

But even if those beliefs are not mine or those of my children – nor will they ever be – what right do I have to reject him as a friend? And all the more so, do I have the right to return the kindness that is critical in bettering the lives of my fellow survivors?! I would even to hazard to say that this is just that very type of baseless religious discrimination and indeed hatred from which I fled in escaping Soviet Russia and which needs to be rejected by all kind and loving people.

In conclusion, allow me to state that everyone is invited to make their own personal decisions about from whom they accept charity. Yet, as a beneficiary of Dr. Evans’ visionary kindness and as someone who appreciates the sincere motivations behind his actions, I would respond to the author of this column by asking her not to judge the soul of the other or assert that simply because a man is a believing Christian, his charity and goodwill must be rejected. Painfully, I am forced to recognize that in a few years, the last of my generation of survivors will be gone and no longer require the charity of others. But until that time, I would urge all to commend the kindness of those who recognize our needs, rather than reject it simply based on misplaced allegations and an unwillingness to appreciate the true intentions of our real friends.

About the Author
Dr. Lillian Glaser is the Director of the Organization of Holocaust Survivors in Jerusalem.