October 10, 2005 – New York – A Bulgarian Orthodox Church priest will receive an American Jewish Committee award in recognition of the heroic efforts of two church leaders who played a vital role in stopping the deportation of Bulgarian Jews to Nazi death camps. The AJC award honoring Bishops (Metropolitans) Stephan and Kiril marks the first public recognition in the U.S. of the Bulgarian Church’s efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust.
Bishop Stephan, head of the Sofian Church and the highest ranking Bulgarian Church official during the Holocaust, and Bishop Kiril, church head in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, both vigorously opposed Bulgarian anti-Jewish policies and the deportation of Jews to death camps. Bishop Stephan passed away in 1957 and Bishop Kiril in 1971.
The award will be presented tonight at the New York premiere of The Optimists, a documentary by Jacky Comforty about the rescue of 50,000 Jews in Bulgaria during World War II.
Following the presentation there will be a panel discussion with Comforty, Ambassador Elena Poptodorova, the Bulgarian ambassador to the U.S., and Victoria Schonfeld, Honorary Bulgarian Consul. Schonfeld also is a member of the national AJC Board of Governors.
The program at the Center for Jewish History is co-sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, the American Sephardi Federation, the Center for Jewish History, the Consulate General of Israel in New York, and Yad Vashem, with the cooperation of the Consulate General of Bulgaria, theInternational Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, Castle Hill Productions and Comforty Media Concepts.