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Turning Evil into an Opportunity to Repair the World

Roberta Elliott
National Public Affairs Director
Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America

(NEW YORK -- March 27, 2002) -- When Fred Oplatka, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, recently received a reparations check from the Austrian government, he didn't think for a moment about keeping it, but promptly decided to donate it to charity.

Oplatka and his wife of 45 years, Frances, were in agreement that the only compensation for their experiences during the Holocaust would be the ability to take positive action today. The Oplatkas have had a good life in the United States, and wanted for nothing. They decided the $7,000 check from Austria should go to a place that would use it to help others. Their choice for this unusual gesture was Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, which supports two major hospitals in Jerusalem, Israel.

The Oplatkas explains: "I couldn't think of a better place than Hadassah Medical Organization. My wife and I have always known about Hadassah and their hospitals. Now that we hear in the news almost every day about people being wounded in Israel, with no end in sight, giving them the money just seemed like the right thing to do."

The Oplatkas, who are San Francisco residents, specified that the reparations check go to the Rehabilitation and Geriatric Rehabilitation Complex of Hadassah Medical Organization, where comprehensive rehabilitation due to trauma, disability, disease, or aging is diagnosed, treated and rehabilitated.

For Oplatka it was a fitting end to a story that began in pre-war Europe. Born in Vienna, incarcerated in Nazi camps in Belgium and France, Mr. Oplatka escaped to the Dominican Republic in 1941. He came to the United States in 1949, settled in San Francisco in 1957, and created a successful and happy life for himself despite the traumas he had suffered. Today, the Oplatkas are awaiting the birth of their first grandchild.

Referring to his remarkable decision to donate his reparation check , Oplatka says: "It was how I wanted to spend it, I needed it to do good in the world."

Founded in 1912, Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America is the largest women's, largest Zionist, and largest Jewish membership organization in the United States. In Israel, it supports medical care and research, education, and youth institutions, and reforestation and parks projects. In the US, Hadassah promotes health education, social action and advocacy, volunteerism, Jewish education and research, Young Judaea and connections with Israel.



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