Webinar on "“Visas for Life” 80th Anniversary: The Legacy of Chiune Sugihara"
On Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles, American Jewish Committee Los Angeles and JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles co-presented a special webinar entitled “Visas for Life” 80th Anniversary: The Legacy of Chiune Sugihara.”
Mr. Chiune Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat posted in Lithuania who in 1940 issued thousands of transit visas to Japan, granting escape to safety for thousands of Jewish refugees.
The speakers at the special event marking the 80th anniversary of the “Visas for Life” included California State Senate Majority Leader Robert M. Hertzberg; Leo Melamed, Chairman Emeritus of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange who is visa recipient and survivor; and Nishikawa Akinori, director of the Port of Humanity Tsuruga Museum in Fukui Prefecture, Japan. Richard S. Hirschhaut, Regional Director of AJC Los Angeles moderated the event.
Consul General MUTO Akira gave opening remarks, noting how Mr. Sugihara’s courageous action of issuing visas saved many lives, and that his legacy is reflected through the stories of people whom he saved and their descendants. Consul General Muto noted that Mr. Sugihara’s story has helped to foster strong bonds between the Japanese and Jewish people, and inspires all to choose a righteous path even in the face of extraordinary circumstances. Consul General Muto also encouraged people who plan to visit Japan for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games to learn more about Mr. Sugihara by visiting The Port of Humanity Tsuruga Museum and the Chiune Sugihara Memorial Hall in Yaotsu-Cho, Gifu Prefecture.
California State Senate Majority Leader Hertzberg recounted Mr. Sugihara’s life after he left Lithuania, and how few people knew of his contributions when he passed away. But as people from the Jewish community came to pay their respects to him, people began to understand that Mr. Sugihara was an extraordinary individual, according to Majority Leader Hertzberg.
AJC Los Angeles Regional Director Hirschaut began the conversation with Mr. Melamed by asking him about his family’s personal encounter with Mr. Sugihara and their journey to Japan. Mr. Melamed spoke of being only eight years old at the time, while noting that he did not meet him personally but that Mr. Sugihara, “was a big heart humanitarian in the history of mankind.” Mr. Melamed emphasized the story of Mr. Sugihara and his deeds should be told to the whole world and used as an example of what one individual can do. Mr. Melamed spoke of befriending the Sugihara family, and working with Mr. Sugihara’s son to do everything they could so that the world would be informed about the visas.
Mr. Hirschaut asked Port of Humanity Tsuruga Museum Director Nishikawa about the central message that museum visitors might take away from the exhibition and its significance for Japan and the world. Mr. Nishikawa said the central message is the importance of human lives and the nobleness of peace, while also citing a need to learn from the past. The museum highlights Mr. Sugihara’s remarkable deeds, as well as heartwarming messages from around the world.
Watch the webinar HERE: https://youtu.be/un2dIlkyLm8
|Consul General MUTO Akira
||California State Senate Majority Leader
Robert M. Hertzberg
|Leo Melamed, Chairman Emeritus of
the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Visa Recipient
Director of the Port of Humanity Tsuruga Museum
|Richard S. Hirschhaut,
Regional Director of AJC Los Angeles