French Hero Receives Cleveland Honor
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On May 3, 2015, a delegation from the Cleveland Muslim community joined members of the Jewish community at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple’s Annual Meeting where Lassana Bathily was the guest speaker. Bathily, a young Muslim-Malian immigrant to France, was recognized for his courage and heroism in the face of terror.
The world was in shock after terrorists attacked Charlie Hedbo Magazine in Paris killing twelve. In the days that followed a series of terror attacks continued. On January 9, the French Hyper Cacher Kosher Market was attacked by a terrorist gunman. Bathily was working in the store’s basement and acted quickly to hide seven Jewish customers, including a two-year old, in the freezer. He then escaped the store to communicate with police. Initially thought to the assailant, Bathily ultimately provided police with the physical key to the super market’s metal blinds allowing police to apprehend the attacker.
“If it were not for Mr. Bathily and his heroic acts to hide Jews, more lives would have been taken,” said Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk of Fairmount Temple. “He signified to the world that hatefulness would not stand.”
Rabbi Nosanchuk is also a member of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s Community Relations Committee (CRC), which works toward peace, tolerance, and harmony between all people of all faiths. When the Rabbi learned that neighbors in the Muslim community were honoring Mr. Bathily, he reached out, “We all honor this courageous man. We all feel pain when there is discrimination and intolerance,” he said. “We can all save lives by looking at one another. We can all save lives by getting to know one another. We can make our whole lives committed to peace this way.”
On behalf of the Jewish community of Cleveland, CRC Chair Cheryl Davis presented Mr. Bathily with an award, thanking him for his courage and heroism. She said, “Mr. Bathily has demonstrated how, no matter your race, religion, or ethnicity, one can act in pursuit of peace as a reflection of our shared humanity.”
Receiving a standing ovation from the audience, Mr. Bathily shared, “Since I was a child, raised as a Muslim, this is how I was taught and how I reacted, naturally. In our faith, we speak of peace and love for all people. I did it because it was what I had to do – not an act of a hero – just the right thing to do.”