REMARKS BY HARRY BAJRAKTARI
Good evening Ladies & Gentlemen,
I want to commend the Albanian American Women’s Organization and the board, for putting together this great event tonight. I am proud of all the work that the AAWO has done in the last 25 years, various issues in our community.
I want to congratulate the honorees; Woman of the Year- Lindita Neziri Lole, Teacher of the Year- my talented and beautiful niece Aferdita Osmani, Lifetime Achievement of my good friend – Dino Erbeli and Lifetime Achievement – Hermira Gjoni.
Last year, our good friend Congressman Eliot Engel, Rrustem Gecaj and I met with Mr. Votim Demiri, the head of the Albanian Jewish Community in Kosova. He informed us of a proposal to build an Albanian Jewish Museum in Prizren. All of us were very excited with this project. We are all aware of the amazing history between the Albanians and Jewish people.
As you all know, Albanians primarily consists of Muslims & Christian and have had to endure centuries of invasion, occupation, expulsion and even genocide. And yet, when invaded first by the Italians and then the Nazis during World War II and ordered to turn over lists of their Jews for deportation and ultimately extermination, the Albanian people adamantly refused, and instead protected their Albanian Jewish residents and over 1,800 Jewish refugees who had entered Albania during the war.
Nazi orders were no match for the Albanian Kanun, a set of thousands year old customary laws with its underlying moral code of Besa. Throughout Albanian Nation, Besa is understood as meaning “Our guests before ourselves,” and emphasizes tolerance and compassion.
The fact that there is today an Albanian Jewish community in Kosova is tribute to the courage and loving-kindness of all Albanians, no matter what their faiths, and to their continued dedication to the principle of Besa. And to now have the prospect of having an Albanian Jewish museum to tell the story of Albanian Jews and their history, will also provide an opportunity to tell the story and history of Albanian strength and kindness to the world.
It is for this that we have ‘pledged’ to raise funds to construct the Albanian Jewish Museum in Prizren.
Rrustem Gecaj and I have committed to raise $50,000 for the museum. We already have raised over $30,000 and by the end of this month, will raise the balance of $50,000.
I want to thank Rrustem Gecaj and his family for all of their help and contribution.
I also, would like to thank my wonderful family for all of their support and their help.
To accomplish this task, we are working closely with Albanian American Women’s Organization Motrat Qeriazi and we want to thank them for their dedication and support.
Together, we can build this great institution that will educate generations to come as to who we are.
Thank you all for being here tonight and for your contribution for this cause.
God bless all of you!