Colegio Olamí ORT in Mexico City hosted a moving ceremony in memory of the 80th anniversary of the liberation of the Jews of Bulgaria on January 26, the eve of International Holocaust Memorial Day.
Held in collaboration with the Bulgarian and Israeli embassies in Mexico, and B’nai Brith of Mexico, the event attracted nearly 1,000 people. In attendance were ambassadors from 18 countries, government representatives, community members, university leaders, and students from Jewish and non-Jewish schools. The initial idea for this event came from Avi Meir, Olami ORT director.
The program was moderated by Dr. Mario Sinay, former Director of Studies at Yad Vashem, and featured moving remarks by Roman Stoyanov, the grandson of Mladen Ivanov – a man named Righteous Among the Nations, and father of an ORT Sofia student.
Bulgarian Holocaust survivor Alberto Bejarano , who lives in Mexico, also shared his family’s experience. Milena Ivanova, Ambassador of Bulgaria in Mexico, highlighted the importance of making the right decisions and thinking about the consequences – and the importance of thinking not only of ourselves, but of others.
Barbara Birch, ORT America President and CEO, joined Dr. Sinay and Mr. Bejarano as special guests who lit a candle in memory of those who perished as part of the commemoration. The other candles were lit by Dan Tartakovsky, from the Council of Bulgaria and Bnei Brith; Plamen Petrov, ORT Bulgaria National Director; and Mario Nissan, President of the Board of Trustees of Colegio Olamí ORT.
The Bulgarian delegation comprised plus Dr. Petrov. Their visit was part of a cultural exchange and they were hosted by ORT Mexico students’ families. They spent time with Olamí ORT students of all school grades, as well as teachers, and coordinators. Among the activities they participated in were sessions in the school’s media center.
While in Mexico, they learned about the country’s history. The group visited Chapultepec Castle , where they heard a lecture on the history of the imposed monarchy in Mexico during the Napoleon era.
The students visited the pyramids of Teotihuacan, meeting indigenous people and taking part in a Tikkun Olam activity while gaining a greater understanding of the Mazahua community. They also enjoyed the Anthropology Museum, where they visited exhibits on Mayan and Aztec cultures, and the Museum of Memory and Tolerance; the CEM, an interactive Shoah museum; the synagogue of the Sephardic community, and the Bulgarian Embassy.
Students shared their impressions of their few days in the country. Nikola Shopov highlighted ORT Olami’s commitment to sustainability: “They have implemented several environmentally friendly initiatives, such as composting and recycling programs, and they educate students on the importance of preserving the planet.”
Raya Raykova, a fellow student, said: “The most interesting things for me were the Holocaust museums. They completely changed my mindset and gave me more knowledge about this time of the history. I really liked the school and I am glad I explored the culture.”
Next month a group of Mexican students will continue the cultural exchange with a trip to Bulgaria. They will visit Sofia to see first-hand the history of the Jewish community and to learn together with their peers.