During the Holocaust, there were Gentiles
who risked their lives to save the Jews from this Holocaust. As
Pierre Sauvage describes, "They were, for the most part, seemingly
ordinary men and women who could not accept the idea that there
was nothing they could do." They hid entire families or provided
the means of escape for many; they protected children by "adopting"
them, they used whatever means were necessary to defy the Nazi murderers;
they were the Righteous.
In Israel a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, Yad Vashem,
is approached through an avenue of trees known as the Avenue of
the Righteous Gentiles. At the base of each tree a small plaque
testifies to the heroism of that person whose action saved a Jewish
life. To walk this path is to be surrounded by symbols of all that
is noblest in mankind. It is an exalted atmosphere.
In Glencoe, Illinois, in the summer of 1984, the idea of creating
another Avenue of the Righteous was born. A call was sent out to
Christian, Jewish and Baha'I congregations for a meeting that set
in motion one of the most significant interfaith projects ever attempted
on the North Shore: the identification of and tribute to non-Jewish
heroes of the Holocaust.
The response was immediate. Support grew as more congregations,
public schools and civic organizations joined in. Members of the
clergy and lay persons came together in a common effort which soon
became a reality.
By 1986 the Evanston City Council had unanimously approved development
of the Avenue of the Righteous on a site in Ingraham Park adjacent
to the Evanston Civic Center. The design was complete, sufficient
funds had contributed and construction began.
In 1987, the Avenue of the Righteous was dedicated.