Hillel Kook Memorial Lecture

An Evening in Honor of MK Hillel Kook
Member of first Knesset 

Seymour J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center,
22 Keren HaYesod Street, Jerusalem
August 27, 2003

Event organized by Larry Pfeffer
eMail: lpfeffer@actcom.co.il

Held under auspices of:

Root and Branch Association
eMail: rb@rb.org.il, Web site: www.rb.org.il


Seymour J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center
eMail: tt@ou.org, Web site: www.ou.org

Presented in cooperation with:

International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation
eMail: irwf@irwf.org, Web site: www.raoulwallenberg.net

Raoul Wallenberg Honorary Citizens Committee
eMail: ygrun@netvision.net.il

Keynote speech given by Ambassador MOSHE ARENS

Event Chaired by Mr. Samson Krupnick, Board Member and Treasurer, Root & Branch Association, Ltd. - Israel Chairman, Jerusalem Embassy Initiative, Root & Branch Association, Ltd.; Yakir Yerushaliyim (Jerusalem Prize) Award Winner, 2001 - Board Chairman, Encyclopedia Talmudica - Former Board Chairman, Shaare Zedek Hospital - Columnist, National Jewish Post and Opinion

NOTE:: information will be posted on this site after the conference.


Hillel Kook, nephew of Israel's first Chief Rabbi, worked under the alias Peter Bergson in the USA, where he was sent in 1939 as emissary from pre-state Israel by Etzel to help build a Jewish Army in the Yishuv. He was about 25 years old at the time.

After he found out about the horrors of the Holocaust he postponed his assigned mission and focused on trying to save the abandoned Jews of Nazi and Fascist infested Europe. He formed in the USA a small but very talented and dedicated group (nicknamed the "Bergson Group" and "Bergson Boys"), credited with saving large numbers of people, mostly Jews, in Europe.

Judaism teaches that he who saves the life of one person saves a whole world. This is exemplified by survivors who had children and grandchildren since the Holocaust.

Despite many difficulties placed in their way, the Bergson Boys made Americans aware of the horror and extent of the Holocaust. The group received unparalleled support by many members of Congress, Senate and the Treasury Department.

One result of Hillel Kook's and his group's relentless work was President Roosevelt authorizing setting up the War Refugee Board. It, in turn, was in large part responsible for the amazing, heroic and very important mission of Raoul Wallenberg to Budapest.

In recent years some of us, Jews, are finally and very cautiously courageous enough to admit that leaders of war-time modern American Jewry obstructed rescue. Part of this recent accusation is motivated by the desire to shift responsibility away from war-time leadership in pre-state Israel, the "Yishuv" in Palestine. We will know that we are finally learning something important from the Holocaust once we have the integrity to face the callousness and betrayal of Europe's Jews by the Yishuv's ruling leaders. It is hoped that soon we will find that courage. We as a nation have a lot to be proud of, and owe it to ourselves to face also our blemishes.

* * *

The crematoria stopped smoking almost sixty years ago. It is time that Hillel Kook, his group of collaborators and other major Jewish rescuers be recognized and honored by the State of Israel, Yad Vashem, Jewish organizations and communities, and people world-wide. Our great Non-Jewish and Jewish "El Salvadors" (Rescuers, Saviours) are important role models for youth.

Some of Hillel Kook's and his group's most important Jewish "virtual colleagues", our major Jewish rescuers, were:

and others like them. Their memory is as precious to us as the memory of wonderful, self-sacrificing, amazingly talented non-Jewish diplomats like:

and other diplomats. For much more detailed list see: International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation



Recognize Major Jewish Holocaust Era Rescuers

So far Israel, the Holocaust Museums and Jewish community world-wide failed to recognize major Jewish Holocaust era rescuers, our El  Salvadors (Saviours, Rescuers). We petition Israeli and Jewish organizations world-wide to correct this wrong.


   View and sign petition



Event Program

Chairman: MR. SAMSON KRUPNICK, Yakir Yerushaliyim (Jerusalem Prize Winner); Board Member and Treasurer, Root & Branch Association, Ltd.; Israel Chairman, Jerusalem Embassy Initiative, Root & Branch Association, Ltd.; Board Chairman, Encyclopedia Talmudica; Former Board Chairman, Shaare Zedek Hospital; Columnist, National Jewish Post and Opinion



Hungarian Jewish Musical Tapestry - present from the heart to Hillel Kook, his group and supporters who saved large numbers of Jews in Hungary. MR. JOSEPH MARTON, accompanied by MR. NETANEL ZELAVSKY, and joined by His Excellency DR. JANOS HOVARI, Ambassador of Hungary to Israel, MR. SHAI CSILLAG, Association of Holocaust Survivors and MR. LARRY PFEFFER, Holocaust survivor from Hungary

Greetings from Diplomatic Corps:

Keynote address:

Ambassador MOSHE ARENS, Former Israeli Minister of Defense, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador to the United States

Short remarks:


Rabbi CHAIM SOLOVEICHIK, Founder and Director of the Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik Institute; Rav of Congregation Ohr Shalom, Ramat Bet Shemesh; Rebbe of Yeshivat Reishit Yerushaliyim, "Jewish Sources Requiring Activism"

Short remarks:


DR. BECKY KOOK, Political Scientist, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, "Reflections about my father, Hillel Kook", Lecture with documentary film footage of Hillel Kook

Testimonial Letters

Letter from Mr. Sallai Meridor - Chairman of the Sochnut (Hebrew)

Letter from Mr. Sallai Meridor - Chairman of the Sochnut (Translation)

Letter from Mr. Max Grunberg - Raoul Wallenberg Honorary Citizen Committee - Event co-sponsor

Text of Some Talks

Her Excellency - Ambassador Suzana Gun de Hasenson, Ambassador of El Salvador to Israel

His Excellency - Ambassador Robert Rydberg, Ambassador of Sweden to Israel

Keynote Address - Ambassador Moshe Arens

Dr. Robert Rozett - Yad Vashem

Short Articles, Reviews and Essays

Two Holocaust Heroes Linked by Courage and Fate, by Dr. Rafael Medoff, Director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, which focuses on issues related to America's response to the Holocaust.

Christmas Without Jews: A Holocaust Controversy, by Dr. Rafael Medoff (Published in Jewish News of Greater Phoenix, December 26, 2003)

A Jewish Boxer Who Fought for His People, Jewish World Review Jan. 7, 2004 / 13 Teves, 5764

Our Maverick El Salvadors, note by Larry Pfeffer

Remembering the mission of a "nuisance diplomat", event review by Shoshana Kordova, Ha'aretz Friday, August 28, 2003

Review by Batsheva Pomerantz on WZO Web Site

Review by the Event Chairman, Mr. Samson Krupnick

The evening's success owes a great deal to its experienced captain, Mr. Samson Krupnick, who steered the event with a steady hand.

Many of us present will remember for a long time that at the end of the event Mr. Krupnick asked us to stand and he recited the Kaddish in Hillel Kook's memory. This was a very meaningful and touching closing for such an important event.

Perhaps Mr. Krupnick is also to be commanded for saying positive things during the evening about Dr. Nachum Goldman and writing kindly in his review about Dr./Rabbi Steven Wise - the Zionist, Reform leader of war-time Judaism in America. The historical record judges Goldman and Wise, and also the leadership of the Zionist movement in the Yishuv (pre-State Israel), as guilty for not caring enough and for sabotaging rescue. Perhaps Mr. Krupnick is right that we try not to dwell on the Zionist movement's and these men's war time crimes against the abandoned and doomed Jews of Europe. Perhaps the major war time crimes are also slightly offset by these men's positive achievements before and after the war. That is for future generations to judge. On the other hand, if we adopt this kind and forgiving attitude, then we must not judge other nations and non-Jews any more harshly then the Zionist movement and major Jewish saboteurs who are responsible for the murder of large numbers of Jews.

Perhaps the most important thing is to try to at least learn from gross and tragic mistakes of our leaders during the Holocaust.

(Above note written by Larry Pfeffer)

Event Announcements

Announcement in Israel Center "Torah Tidbits" (widely distributed in Israeli synagogues, hotels, etc.)

Announcement in Jerusalem Post


Photos of Speakers

Professor Moshe Arens
Past Minister of Defense, Ministser of Foreign Affairs,
Ambassador to Washington

David Bedeine
Investigative Journalist


First Hungarian Jewish Song

Left to Right:

Mr. Shai Csillag
Past Ambassador of Hungary: Dr. Janos Hovari
Mr. Netanel Zelavsky (with wind instrument)
Mr. Joseph Marton
Mr. Larry Pfeffer

Second Hungarian Jewish Song

Mr. Joseph Marton accompanied by 
Mr. Netanel Zelavsky

Rabbi Meir Fendel
(Orthodox Union

Mrs. Suzana Gun de Hasenson
Ambassador of El Salvador

Dr. Janos Hovari
Ambassador of Hungary


Dr. Becky Kook
Hillel Kook's daughter
Ben Gurion University (Political Science)

Sam Krupnick
Yakir Yerushalayim

Isi Liebler
At the time Executive VP, World Jewush Congress

Israel Medad
Begin Center

Karen Pfeffer

Larry Pfeffer
Jerusalem Working Group

Jonathan Rosenblum

Dr. Robert Rosett
Director of Library, Yad Vashem

Mr. Robert Rydberg
Ambassador of Sweden

Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik
Rabi Aharon Soloveitchik's son


Post Event Announcement

Rabbi who lobbied for Holocaust Rescue dies at 89
December 8, 2003 - Rabbi Baruch Robbins (Rabinowitz)


NOTE: information will be posted on this site after the conference.

Jan 10, 2004