Friday, June 30, 2017

A Hero You've Never Heard About Before

Oscar Schindler was a German businessman in the early 1940s who was a member in good standing of the Nazi party. Distressed by the horror of what he saw his government doing to Jews he secretly undertook to save as many of them as he could. His story is recorded in the excellent Steven Spielberg movie Schindler's List which, if you haven't ever seen it, you should.

There's a Jewish businessman in Montreal named Steve Maman who owns a luxury car and motorcycle dealership who has been called the Jewish Schindler. In November 2014, Maman founded the Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq (CYCI) to free hostages from ISIS.

Bradley Martin at The Federalist tells the story of how a wealthy Jewish car dealer in Canada got involved in rescuing Christians and Yazidis.

Here's Martin's lede:
At a high-end car and motorcycle dealership in Montreal, a Canadian-Jewish businessman has made it his mission to save Christian and Yazidi girls from ISIS. What began as just another business venture for Steve Maman, a car dealer specializing in luxury automobiles, would turn into saving the lives of thousands of people.

Born in Morocco and immigrating to Canada at a very young age, Maman describes himself as an Orthodox Jew who grew up with “a great sense of being proudly Jewish.” Maman’s journey began following the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein, sons of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Aside from their horrifying reputations consisting of rape, murder, and torture, the brothers also had a voracious appetite for fine automobiles.“

[Uday and Qusay] traveled the world to collect fine cars,” said Maman. “They had over 500 cars in their collection – the most valuable cars in the world – Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Rolls Royces, you name it. They even had a 1958 Bentley Continental Dropped Coupe, which is worth several million dollars."

At the time, Iraq would not allow any of these cars to leave the country. But Maman’s business inquiries resulted in a close friendship with Canon Andrew White, the former Anglican vicar of Baghdad’s St. George’s Church, known by many simply as “the Vicar of Baghdad.”

During one of their conversations, White told Maman of the dangerous situation facing the last five Iraqi Jews who lived in Baghdad. With a history stretching as far back as biblical times, the Iraqi Jewish population once numbered 150,000. This remnant celebrated Shabbat at St. George’s Church under White’s protection. White even recounted how they would celebrate Jewish holidays at the American embassy in Baghdad, alongside American Jews serving in the U.S military.

White also spoke to Maman about the genocide taking place against Christians and Yazidis in Iraq. The vicar gave an account of the thousands of women and children ISIS was holding captive. Amidst the beheadings, torture, and other horrors of the genocide, thousands of women were being sold into sexual slavery. Maman knew he had to do something. “From 1939-1945, Jews were being murdered during the Holocaust,” said Maman, “despite the fact that everyone around knew it was going on. It was three years into the genocide [of Christians and Yazidis] yet nobody acted. That is why I did what I did. I didn’t trust anyone else to do it.” In November 2014, Maman founded the Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq (CYCI) to free hostages from ISIS territory.

In early 2015, Maman was part of a delegation that met with then-Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. After his speech, Maman approached Harper, praising him as a hero for his strong pro-Israel stance and “all he had done for Jews.” According to Maman, “Harper had tears in his eyes and was very touched.” During their meeting, Maman then reported of his plans to rescue women and children from ISIS territory.

“Harper loved the idea,” said Maman. “The [Canadian] federal government and [former Canadian minister of National Defense] Jason Kenney provided support to the rescue efforts under his leadership. We will leave it at that.”

When the vicar left Baghdad in November 2014, he left behind a security team that was integrated into CYCI’s rescue operations. Through a variety of methods, Maman set about trying to liberate as many of the estimated 10,000 women who were being sold in Iraqi slave markets as he possibly could. When ISIS terrorists were away from their homes, civilians would be hired to extract enslaved women and bring them to safety. In total, 140 women and girls were liberated.

“When you see a girl being rescued, you cry,” says Maman. “I don’t care how tough you are, you cry.”
Please read the rest of Martin's account at the link.

Steve Maman
Maman and his organization are doing wonderful work, as is the team led by Jeremy Courtney whose organization Preemptive Love I wrote about a year ago. These people and others like them are the real heroes in our world today, but living as we do in a superficial culture infatuated with celebrity and the trivial we rarely hear about them. This post is a small attempt to rectify that.