Tag Archives: Hero

Jew of the Week: Liviu Librescu

The Holocaust Survivor Who Saved a Classroom

Liviu Librescu (1930-2007) was born in Ploiesti, Romania. In November of 1940, the Romanian government allied with Nazi Germany, and Librescu’s family was deported to a labour camp. Eventually, they ended up in the Focsani Ghetto from which Librescu was liberated in 1945. He stayed in Romania and enrolled in aerospace engineering studies (inspired by his time watching birds fly in and out of the ghetto). A year after graduating he joined the Bucharest Institute of Applied Mechanics where he served as a researcher for 22 years. In 1969, Librescu earned his Ph.D in fluid dynamics, and wrote some very important papers that were unfortunately unknown in the West. He was also recruited by the government to work on top secret military projects. However, Librescu was soon fired for refusing to swear allegiance to the Romanian Communist Party and for requesting to emigrate to Israel. Thankfully, one of his groundbreaking research papers was smuggled out of Romania and brought him international attention. It reached the desk of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who personally put pressure on the Romanian government to free Librescu. In 1978, the Romanians relented and Librescu made aliyah to the Holy Land. For the next seven years, Librescu taught at Tel-Aviv University and the world-famous Technion in Haifa. In 1985, he took a sabbatical year and visited Virginia Tech in the US. He decided to stay and joined their Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics. Librescu went on to become one of Virginia Tech’s most famous and beloved professors. He is credited with publishing more papers (250) than any other Virginia Tech professor, and among his many awards are a Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research and a Frank J. Maher Award for Excellence in Engineering Education. He was also on the editorial boards of seven scientific journals, and a guest editor of five more. On April 16, 2007, Librescu was teaching his regular class when a gunman walked into the engineering building at Virginia Tech and opened fire. When the gunman tried to enter Librescu’s classroom, the professor blocked the door and told his students to escape through the windows. He was fatally shot five times. All but one of his students were able to escape. The remaining 22 were saved by Librescu’s heroic actions. In a horrible twist of irony, the Virginia Tech shooting took place on the 27th of Nisan – Holocaust Memorial Day. President Băsescu of Romania posthumously awarded Librescu the Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Romania (the country’s highest civilian honour), and renamed the street in front of the US Embassy in Bucharest after him. Virginia Tech’s Jewish Student Center is now named after him, too, as is a professorship at Columbia Law School. He was called the “Most Inspiring Person of 2007”. President George W. Bush eulogized Librescu with the following words: “With the gunman set to enter his class, this brave professor blocked the door with his body while his students fled to safety. On the Day of Remembrance, this Holocaust survivor gave his own life so that others may live.”

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Words of the Week

Few are guilty; all are responsible.
– Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Jews of the Week: Bob and Harvey Weinstein

The Weinstein Brothers (Credit: Al Seib/LA Times)

The Weinstein Brothers were born in New York and grew up in a housing co-op where they developed a passion for movies. After university, they produced rock concerts under the company name Harvey & Corky Productions. Once the Weinsteins saved enough money, they pursued their life-long dream and opened a film production studio called Miramax, named after their parents Miriam and Max. They started off making small independent films that few people heard of. In 1982 they made a movie for Amnesty International. The film became a hit and propelled the human rights organization into the spotlight. In 1988 they produced their next big film, The Thin Blue Line, about a wrongfully convicted death row inmate. The awareness that the film raised resulted in the inmate being cleared and released from prison! Miramax soon became the most successful independent studio in America, and would produce such classics as Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They also brought Asian favourites like Shaolin Soccer and Hero to Western audiences. The Weinsteins are noted social activists, campaigning against poverty and supporting research into various diseases like juvenile diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Over a decade after Disney bought into Miramax, the Weinsteins left the merger and started The Weinstein Company in 2005, through which they still continue to produce hit movies.

 

 

Words of the Week

The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.
– Charles Bukowski