Oct 14, 2014

The Power of One Woman: Women’s Season to Open with Holocaust Story of Polish Rescuer– Told by Her Daughter

A moving morning of inspiration and empowerment is in store for women from throughout the Jewish community as the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County’s opens its new women’s season. They’ll gather on Monday morning, November 3, 2014 to hear about one woman’s courageous efforts to save Jews in Poland during the Holocaust, as Jeannie Smith shares the riveting story of her remarkable mother, Irene Gut Opdyke. The program will be held at Woodfield Country Club, 3650 Club Place, Boca Raton. Registration will start at 8:45 a.m, with the program beginning promptly at 9:30 a.m. The $45 couvert includes breakfast, with dietary laws observed.

“Women of all ages and Jewish backgrounds will find this remarkable woman’s story deeply moving and meaningful,” said Janice Obuchowski, who is co-chairing the morning with Karen Dern. “We are delighted to bring this powerfully inspiring opportunity for local women to share, and there will be no solicitation of funds during the morning.”

One of the Righteous among the Nations, Irene Gut Opdyke’s life-saving actions while working for a high-ranking German official were recently memorialized each night on Broadway in the nationally acclaimed play, “Irena’s Vow,” starring Tovah Feldshuh. Irene’s book, In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer, published by Random House, is used in classrooms around the country. Among Irene’s international recognition, she has been honored at Yad Vashem and the Vatican, by the ADL, and with both the Polish and Israeli medals of honor. (see additional information below)

“Irene passed away in 2003, but her memory and courageous deeds live on,” said Dern. “Dedicated to sharing her mother’s story throughout the United States at schools, churches, camps and organizations both Jewish and non-Jewish, Jeannie, Irene’s only child, will join us from Washington State. She is committed to encouraging all to understand just how much ‘the power of one person can make a difference.”

Guests are asked to support their neighbors in need by bringing canned food and toiletry items for the local Jacobson Family Food Pantry at JFS to the event. Peanut butter and canned tuna are most needed.

For additional information about The Power of One Woman, women may call 561.852.6014 or email ruthk@bocafed.org. To RSVP, please visit jewishboca.org/seasonopening.

The Dorothy Seaman Department of Women’s Philanthropy is a sisterhood built on shared Jewish values; a support network of encouragement and recognition; and a venue for learning, growing, bonding, advocating and celebrating. It is made up of strong, active, caring women of all ages who are deeply committed to doing good locally, in Israel and around the world. Wells Fargo Private Bank is the generous sponsor of the Department.


Jeannie Smith and her Mother, Irene Gut Opdyke

Featured speaker Jeannie Smith is the daughter of Polish rescuer Irene Gut Opdyke, who passed away on May 18, 2003. A brave and inspiring figure, Irene received international recognition for her life-saving actions during the Holocaust while working for a high-ranking German official. Irene’s life story was recently told each night on Broadway in the nationally acclaimed play “Irena’s Vow,” starring Tovah Feldshuh. Irene’s book, “In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer,” published by Random House, relays the detailed account of her life during the years of WWII, and is used in classrooms around the country.

The Israeli Holocaust Commission named Irene one of the Righteous among the Nations, a title given to those who risked their lives by aiding and saving Jews during the Holocaust. She was presented with the Israel Medal of Honor, Israel’s highest tribute, in a ceremony at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. The Vatican has given Irene a special commendation, and her story is part of a permanent exhibit in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. In 2008, Irene was presented posthumously with the Commanders Cross, the Polish medal of honor, given by the President and First Lady of Poland and, in 2009, with the Courage to Care award by the Anti-Defamation League in a special ceremony in Washington DC. Both of the awards were accepted by Jeannie Smith, who is Irene’s only child.

Jeannie resides in Woodland, Washington and is part of a new generation of Holocaust Speakers called 2nd Generation who share their parents’ first-hand experiences. She is a member and speaker for the Oregon & Washington Holocaust Speakers Bureau and tells her mother’s story at schools, churches, camps and organizations (both Jewish and non-Jewish) throughout the United States. Jeannie tells her mother’s story to encourage all that…

“the power of one person can make a difference!”