By Jennifer Lader.
There is a sure way to prove that one person can make a difference, and that is to try. Try to help others; to feed, clothe and comfort those in need; to shield them from harm. That is what Raoul Wallenberg did. A Swedish diplomat, he saved tens of thousands of Budapest Jews from the Nazis during the last year of World War II. Each year since 1984, Muhlenberg College and the Institute for Jewish Christian Understanding (IJCU) have paid tribute to his courageous moral action. Their Raoul Wallenberg Tribute recognizes individuals who have helped others in a big way. On Sunday, Sept. 18, IJCU honors Rabbi Allen Juda.
As the son, son-in-law, grandson, great nephew and cousin of Holocaust survivors and victims, Juda had long been aware of Raoul Wallenberg’s effort to rescue Jews during World War II. The thought of what European Jewry and his own family endured lit a spark in Juda that has helped him continually and vocally oppose genocides, prejudice and stereotyping.
Juda builds bridges of understanding, participating in and later chairing the IJCU’s Day of Dialogue. This an annual workshop on a topic of concern in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities. He gave Youth and Prejudice presentations, sharing his family’s story with hundreds of middle school and high school students. For the past two years, he has hosted the IJCU’s First Fridays.
Juda is active with Jewish Family Service and on issues of eldercare. “He has also been a strong advocate for feeding the poor and hungry,” said Ed Levy, president of Congregation Brith Sholom, where Juda served as rabbi for 39 years. “He organized food drives for soup kitchens and arranged for volunteers from Brith Sholom to prepare and serve meals at New Bethany Ministries. Congregation Brith Sholom is extremely proud of the Valley-wide impact that Rabbi Juda has had in these important areas.”
Through it all, Juda recalled Wallenberg. After the liberation of Budapest at the end of WWII, Wallenberg disappeared into Soviet custody. “For many years during my rabbinate,” Juda said, “I was among those who hoped that he was still alive, [even if] languishing in a Soviet prison, as was from time to time reported. We all hoped that when the Soviet Union collapsed, Wallenberg would be found alive and could receive the recognition, appreciation and honor he so richly deserved. It was tragic to discover that he had died decades before. To have my name linked in any small way to his is a great honor for me.”