JDC Bestows PH With Its “Light Unto The World Award”

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (jFAXX) – Better late than never.

After 74 years, the Philippines was formally recognized Wednesday by a prestigious American Jewish organization for saving thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution before the outbreak of World War II.

The Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. said that on behalf of the Philippines, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. received on Wednesday the Or L’Olam (Light Unto the World) Award from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) on its centennial anniversary on Dec. 11.  JDC is the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization.

The award honors the Philippines, then a Commonwealth of the United States, for its heroic actions that saved the Jews, whose lives were in danger from the Nazi persecution.

JDC Chief Executive Officer Alan H. Gill said the award is in recognition of the role the Philippines played in saving the lives of Jews by providing them a safe haven while many other countries were turning them away.

Gill said the Philippines, which was then led by Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon, accepted 1,305 Jewish refugees in an operation that was carried out with the JDC, the Jewish Community in Manila, led by the Frieder family and US High Commissioner Paul McNutt.


More than 70 years later, JDC has returned to the Philippines as part of its global disaster relief work, aiding Filipinos in areas most devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.

“On this occasion of our 100th anniversary, it is our honor to bestow upon the Philippines our Or L’Olam Award for the country’s extraordinary life-saving actions,” Gill said. “The Philippines’ heroic decision to admit Jews at a time when the doors of many nations were closed has never been forgotten by us.”

“Our gratitude for this brave act and the kindness extended to Jews in their darkest hour underpins our relief and rebuilding efforts in the Philippines today,” Gill added. “We work every day to return that same measure of hope and life-affirming care to the Filipino people at their time of need.”

Ambassador Cuisia expressed his appreciation to the JDC and the Jewish Community not only for the award but for the generous assistance that has been extended to typhoon victims in the Philippines.

“On behalf of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, I would like to thank the JDC for recognizing a gesture that was extended more than seven decades ago,” Ambassador Cuisia said. “On behalf of the Filipino people, I would like to thank the Jewish Community for always being there for us.”


Ambassador Cuisia said the Philippines greatly appreciates the assistance extended to the Filipino people by the JDC and the Jewish Community around the world, particularly those affected recently by Typhoon Haiyan.

The JDC has a history operating in the Philippines, previously helping to fight post-typhoon cholera through an Israeli partner in 2009 and working to enhance emerging Jewish community life through the inclusion of the Philippines Jewish community members in Pan-Asian Jewish events.

Since its founding in 1914, the JDC has been engaged in humanitarian interventions for Jewish and non-Jewish populations around the globe.

To date, the JDC has raised more than $1.6 million to aid the Philippines, providing victims of the storm with food, shelter, clean water, and sanitation items through its local and international partners.

Over the following months and years, the JDC said it will continue to partner with local groups to help rehabilitate the hardest-hit areas of the country and put into motion long-term, sustainable programs for the future development of the island nation.

The JDC’s disaster relief programs are funded by special appeals of the Jewish Federations of North America and tens of thousands of individual donors. The JDC coordinates its relief activities with the United States Department of State, the US Agency for International Development, Interaction, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Israeli relief agencies and the United Nations.

The JDC works in more than 70 countries and in Israel to alleviate hunger and hardship, rescue Jews in danger, create lasting connections to Jewish life, and provide immediate relief and long-term development support for victims of natural and man-made disasters. For more information, please visit www.JDC.org

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