New York, NY, December 3, 2023 – The Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University, in collaboration with Fordham University’s Center for Jewish Studies and the Institute for Balkan Studies of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, orchestrated a powerful seminar to pay tribute to the courageous acts of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church during the Holocaust.
Entitled “The ‘Righteous Gentiles’ of Bulgaria: The Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Rescue of the Bulgarian Jews (1940-45),” the seminar took place at Fordham Law School on December 3, attracting distinguished scholars, students and opening its doors to the public.
In 2002, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem officially recognized the pivotal contributions of two esteemed leaders of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church—Metropolitan Kiril of Plovdiv (+ 1971) and Metropolitan Stefan of Sofia (+ 1957)—designating them as “Righteous Gentiles.” Their crucial roles in rescuing Bulgarian Jews during the Holocaust have become symbols of courage and compassion. As we commemorate the 80th anniversary of their audacious actions, alongside other clergy and laity, it is imperative to reflect on how their collective efforts thwarted deportations and saved numerous Jewish lives in Bulgaria.
This year, the spotlight is on the writings of Metropolitan Stefan, as his personal archives are being published for the first time. Distinguished scholars from Bulgaria and the USA delved into the role and influence of the clergy, the Synod, and prominent figures within the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in the rescue mission and the history of the dialogue between Jews and Orthodox Christians.
- Professor Roumiana Preshlenova: Director of the Institute for Balkan Studies with the Center of Thracology at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
- Dr. Stamenka Antonova: Historian at the Institute for Balkan Studies.
- Professor Joseph Benatov: Associate Director of the Jewish Studies Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania.
- Dr. Michael G. Azar: Associate Professor of Theology/Religious Studies at the University of Scranton.
Faculty members, students from Fordham University, and Mr. Angel Angelov (Consul General of Bulgaria in New York) actively engaged in the discussion following the presentations.
This seminar offered a unique opportunity to gain profound insights into the courageous efforts of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church during a contentious period in 20th-century history, revealing untold stories of heroism and compassion.
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