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Former High Court judge to chair Righteous Among the Nations office

The Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations reaches decisions through a process similar to a jury.

Hanan Melcer, former deputy president of the Israeli Supreme Court, discusses judicial reform at a conference in Tel Aviv, Feb. 23, 2024. Photo by Gideon Markowicz/TPS.
Hanan Melcer, former deputy president of the Israeli Supreme Court, discusses judicial reform at a conference in Tel Aviv, Feb. 23, 2024. Photo by Gideon Markowicz/TPS.

Former Israeli Supreme Court Deputy President Hanan Melcer assumed the role of chairman of the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations on Sunday, a voluntary position with a five-year term.

Melcer replaces interim chairman Elyakim Rubinstein, also a former deputy president of the High Court, who filled the post after chairman and former Justice Jacob Turkel died May. 

Melcer, aged 72, was born in Israel and graduated with honors from Tel Aviv University. He served in the Israel Defense Forces and was discharged from reserve duty as a lieutenant colonel.

In August 2007, he was appointed as a Supreme Court justice. He became deputy president of the court a decade later, serving in that role until his retirement in 2021. Melcer has served as a lecturer at Tel Aviv University and as a senior lecturer in administrative law at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. Currently, he is an associate adjunct professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“It is a great honor for me to be appointed to this position, especially considering that both of my parents survived the Holocaust,” said Melcer. “My father, Advocate Yosef Melcer, z”l, was rescued by Oskar Schindler, recognized by Yad Vashem in 1962 as Righteous Among the Nations, while my mother, Yocheved Melcer (née Wexler), of Blessed Memory, survived Auschwitz.”

The Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations consists of historians, academics and Holocaust survivors, all of whom volunteer their time. It operates independently and reaches decisions through a process similar to a jury.

Yad Vashem has recognized more than 28,000 people as Righteous Among the Nations—non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

Last month, Yad Vashem hosted its annual symposium for the international diplomatic corps serving in Israel. Yad Vashem Directorate chairman Dani Dayan, Yad Vashem Council chairman Rabbi Israel Meir Lau and Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz participated in the event together with more than 65 ambassadors.

“Each year on Passover, Jews worldwide ask, ‘Why is this night different from all other nights?’” Dayan told the ambassadors. “This year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day [Jan. 27], in the wake of the attack by Hamas on October 7, we ask why is this Holocaust Remembrance Day unlike any other? The Holocaust does not define Jews but its impact on the Jewish psyche is profound.

“The echoes of October 7 remind us that ‘Never Again’ is a commandment we must fulfill and not just an empty cliché. As we approach the 80th anniversary of liberation, Holocaust remembrance and education remain essential to creating a more just society.” 

Also in January, an exhibition titled “Bigger Than Me” debuted at Yad Vashem. It features six oil paintings and some 10 additional sketches by Israeli artist Shai Azoulay. It has been given added significance following the Hamas massacre, the worst single-day attack on the Jewish people since the Holocaust.

The exhibition, created over the previous month and a half, is the first time Yad Vashem is displaying artwork that was not created by Holocaust victims or survivors and does not consist of art that depicts the atrocities of the Shoah.

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