Luna Kaufman, a Polish-born Holocaust survivor and long-time resident of Watchung, has been honored by the Polish government for her efforts to foster Jewish-Catholic relations and to keep alive the memory of the Shoa and its victims.
In a ceremony at the Polish consulate in New York City on Sept. 22, Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski presented her with a Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit in recognition of her “exceptional contribution” to Polish-Jewish dialogue.
A citation provided by the Polish consulate also thanked Kaufman for all she has done “to let the world know about the multi-faceted Jewish tradition in Poland.”
Kaufman, who now lives primarily in Manhattan, was among 27 members of the Polish-American community who were given awards.
“When they gave me the honorary doctorate at Seton Hall in 2009, I thought that was tremendous,” Kaufman told NJJN, “but this was an even greater thrill.”
Among the other Jews honored was Manhattan Rabbi Arthur Schneier, founder of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation; Forward society columnist Masha Leon; the 101-year-old journalist, photographer, writer, and former U.S. government official Ruth Gruber; and Dr. David Marvell, director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City.
Kaufman, 83, grew up in Cracow and came to the United States in 1952. She survived detention in the Cracow ghetto and subsequent imprisonment in three different concentration camps. Her mother also survived the war, but her father and older sister were killed. She has spoken extensively at schools and universities about Jews’ wartime experience in Poland — describing both the cruelty and the kindness they were shown, and in 2009 published Luna’s Life: A Journey of Forgiveness and Triumph, her memoir about that time and her experiences since.
Komorowski and his wife, Anna, were in New York for a three-day visit, during which he addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations. The theme of his speech was the need for solidarity among nations. During his visit, he visited with firefighters and policemen who helped victims of the 9/11 attacks and laid flowers at a memorial for those who died.