Adas Israel Congregation will honor the memories of the Veseli Family from Albania

Raif Hyseni and Merita Halili will performe at this year’s Garden of the Righteous ceremony


The Garden of the Righteous Program was initiated in 1992 by Rabbi Jeffrey A. Wohlberg to honor non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. The honor takes the form of the dedicating a plaque each year on the Sunday morning closest to Yom HaShoah, dedicated to a particular “Righteous Gentile” in an area near the front of the synagogue known as The Garden of the Righteous. The honoree or, if the honoree is deceased a representative of the honoree’s family or country, receives an engraved memento of the occasion. When possible, the rescued family member or descendent participates in the ceremony.

The Garden of the Righteous Program, which has become an annual event, was intended to present a different type of public undertaking through which to commemorate the Holocaust. The program has a dual purpose: to teach and to honor. The teaching component is intended to show children and adults that the lesson of the Holocaust is not only one of sadness, but also a lesson in courage, honor, compassion, and heroism. It emphasizes that during the Holocaust there were righteous non-Jews who actually helped, rather than hurt, Jews. The other component is designed bring to the Synagogue a non-Jew who risked his or her life to save Jews. This program in our nation’s capital is an adaptation of The Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem in Israel’s capital. The use of a garden, specifically the planting of a tree to honor the recipient selected each year, was intended to symbolize the choice of life in the face of death.

As Rabbi Wohlberg explains in a letter to our Religious School families:
“Even now it is difficult to know how best to remember the Holocaust. It is especially difficult to know how to teach it to children in a way that will give them strength and so that the Holocaust will be appropriately remembered. One special element in that education process is teaching about the non-Jews who risked their lives and dared to try to save Jews during World War II. Yad Vashem, the Memorial Museum and Archives to the Six Million in Jerusalem, has identified 50,000 such “righteous gentiles”, many of whom it has recognized by planting trees in their honor in a Garden of the Righteous. I believe that it is crucial that we do the same. It is vital that children learn not only about the bad things which have happened in history, but that they be taught about those who exemplify courage, compassion, humaneness and sensitivity so that they will be moved to follow those examples. The stories of these extraordinary people are an important element in building character, teaching ethics and in motivating moral responsibility.”

Adas Israel Garden of the Righteous garden, designed and installed by John Harrison of Yard Art Design, was generously donated by Judy and Saul Strauch in memory of Judy’s mother, Beatrice Lachman, in memory of her father, Irving Lachman and in memory of Saul’s sister, Estelle Strauch.


2017 – The Veseli Family – Vesel and Fatima and their sons: Refik, Hamid and Xhemal Veseli

Veseli FamilyOn Sunday April 23, Adas Israel Congregation will honor the memories of the Veseli Family from Albania: Vesel and Fatima and their sons: Refik, Hamid and Xhemal Veseli. The Veseli Family sheltered the families of Moshe Mandil and Josef Ben Joseph from Yugoslavia. Albania was the only country in Nazi-occupied Europe that ended World War II with more Jews living in it than before the war started. For the Veseli Family and for all Albanians, protecting Jews during the Holocaust was part of “besa,” which literally means “to keep the promise”. This Albanian code of honor requires that individuals protect anyone in danger regardless of religious or political affiliation, to extend hospitality and to treat them as part of their family.

The Adas Israel Garden of the Righteous is a beautiful reminder of numerous acts of decency and daring performed by many non-Jews in the midst of one of the most tragic moments in human history. The entire community is cordially invited for this moving event.

Merita-Halili-Raif-HyseniWe are pleased to present Raif Hyseni and Merita Halili as performers at this year’s Garden of the Righteous ceremony. Raif Hyseni is the most famous Albanian accordion player. He graduated from Caldwell College in 1999, as well as Master in Music from Montclair State University in New Jersey, where he is now an Adjunct Professor and teaches Albanian Ensemble. Merita Halili is one of Albania’s top performers. Born in the capital city of Tirane, her nationwide debut came in 1983, at the age 16, when she sang at The National Folk Festival in the town of Gjirokaster. Soon afterwards she began to perform on Albanian Radio and Television and as a soloist with the State Ensemble for Folk Songs and Dances. (Source: