Our Chairman Emeritus, Jack Polak, turned 100 on December 31, 2012. He is a Holocaust survivor, father, community minded citizen, but first and foremost an educator. He and his wife of 67 years, Ina Soep, courted in Bergen-Belsen and their love letters, translated by their daughter Margrit, were published in a book, “Steal a Pencil for Me” in 2000
. In 2007, a film of the same name was produced by award-winning director and producer Michele Ohayon. For more information please visit: www.stealapencil.com
In May of 1940 the Germans invaded The Netherlands and Jack was sent to Westerbork, a deportation camp where he worked as a school principal in July of 1943. In February 1944, he was transported to the German concentration camp, Bergen-Belsen. On April 9, 1945 he was placed into a cattle car for a 14-day “train ride” through Germany which ended on April 23 when the Russian Army liberated him. He contracted and survived spotted typhus, then returned to The Netherlands where he restarted his business as a certified tax consultant. In January 1946, Jack married Ina Soep and the family emigrated to the USA in January, 1951 where they raised their three children. Jack speaks in schools, churches, synagogues and private organizations. He is still an active investor banker.
Over the years Jack has been honored by the United Jewish Appeal, Israel Bond Drive, and B’nai B’rith. He is a founding board member of the Westchester Holocaust Education Center and NYS Commission on the Holocaust. In 2004, Mr. Polak received an honorary doctorate from Hofstra University and the NYS Louis E. Yavner Award for a NYS resident who has demonstrated distinguished contributions related to teaching the Holocaust and human rights. On his 80th birthday this luminary was knighted by Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands for his work as the president of the AFC-USA. On January 26, 2006 at the first annual International Day of Commemorating victims of the Holocaust, Jack and Ina were honored in a candle light ceremony at the United Nations General Assembly.
JACK POLAK’S SIX LESSONS:
In honor of Jack’s life long commitment to Holocaust education, help support the AFC
- Don’t discriminate
- Don’t generalize
- Don’t be a bystander
- Work for peace
- Enjoy the simple things in life
- We are living in a wonderful country and we all need to work together to make this a better world, but this can only be achieved if people learn the lessons of the Holocaust.