I am a daughter of Holocaust survivors and life has a special meaning to me. When I first heard – on the Mark Levin radio show – the story of Steve Maman and the organization The Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq (CYCI) he has founded I immediately knew I needed to help spread the word.
My first impression of Steve’s story, which I got from listening to his story and an interview on the radio waves, was, here is one other Jew stepping up to save life. However, what I have learned about Steve was much beyond my first impression and expectation.
Thank God the human brain that gave us cyber communication. This week, via a Skype interview between Montreal, Canada and Los Angeles, California, Steve and I have met and spoke.
Steven, his Hebrew first name is Raphael, for refuah – for cure in Hebrew, Maman, 42 years old, was born in Casablanca Morocco and grew up in Montreal Canada. He is energetic, defines himself as a modern orthodox Jew, married to Murielle and a father of six, from 20 months to 22 years old. He likes to test life to the maximum, rides a Harley bike and races fast boats and he is the curator of one the largest vintage, classic car collections in the world.
Steve believes in gratitude, in stepping up no matter what. His references are Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of National Defense and Minister for Multiculturalism, Oskar Schindler, who was an ethnic German industrialist, spy, and member of the Nazi Party who is credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunition factories and late Sir Nicholas George Winton, was a British humanitarian who organized the rescue of 669 children, most of them Jewish, from Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War in an operation later known as the Czech Kindertransport.
“A strange collection” I remarked to Steve. And Steve replied, “The Canadian politicians, the same way they fight for Israel to be respected among the nations, they fight for the Yazidis, all because they are truthful people of true meaning. As for Mr. Schindler and Sir Winton, they put their life in danger, facing punishment, even death, they sacrificed their livelihood, without any financial gain, any calculation or medal, using their money to accomplish their ultimate mission of saving lives knowing they could be killed. Humane, human to human actions, regardless of the creed, nationality, politics.”
Another reference is Eliezer “Elie” Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor, Romanian-born Jewish writer, professor, political activist, and Nobel Laureate. “Eli Wiesel spent his life educating the world rather than being angry. Eli started a movement based on the fact that anger is not the answer. His philosophy is that even after you kill so many of us, Jews, we go on working to fix the world. Jews bringing Holiness and Godliness to the modern small world and take the chance to fix it, kind of self-supervision,” Steve explains his reasoning for action.
He then goes on, “I am in the business of old classic collector’s cars, which brings me to travel the world over selling and buying these vintage cars. One of my special customers is Roger Demers who owns one of the most exquisite automobile collection in the world, on display in Quebec, Canada. Demers, who is a car fanatic bought 675 classic type cars and I am his collection curator, a position that takes me to many Arab countries where I meet with mostly royalty and visit palaces. I have been to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and Dubai but not to Iran. There were rumors that Saddam Hussein and his son Uday were somewhat vintage cars collectors and there were cars to buy in Iraq. There, in Iraq, I met Reverend Canon Andrew White, the British humanitarian worker with 13 doctorate degrees, who was the vicar of St George’s Church, Baghdad-the only Anglican Church in Iraq-until his departure for the sake of security. We became very good friends. Interestingly, Reverend White is a follower of the Karlin-Stolin Hasidic dynasty and the Karlin Rebbe, studied Kabbalah and attended Yeshiva in Meah Shearim, Israel.
I fell in love with Reverend White and we bonded. We met by Divine Providence and for two years I worked with the Reverend helping him looking for people in Iraq who needed help. At the same time I made lots of friends and connections through the Reverend.
Then ISIS rose to power and things changed.
ISIS threatened Reverend White’s life and he was forced to leave Iraq back to Britain. When I saw what is happening with the children in Iraq I brought Reverend White to Canada and there we made a pact. Reverend White has allowed me to use his contacts and security team, working together with Pentagon operatives and anti-terrorists intelligence forces in Iraq, who are using USA, Canada and Britain money to protect the Christians in Iraq.”
Steve, focused, continued, “Eight months ago I founded CYCI, to save and liberate the Christians and Yazidi children in Iraq. With my mentor in the UK I began the necessary preparations for the operation, mainly to help release the Yazidi girls from their captors. The money we collect we pay brokers and intermediaries in Mosul to find the girls, to negotiate their release and bring them out. So far, at the cost of $1,000-$3,000 per girl, we have saved 128 girls and God willing, in the next few days 12 more girls will see the light of freedom.
Video – The liberation of Christian and Yazidi children of Iraq sold as slaves
“We have timeline to meet. We expect that the Peshmerga, the military forces of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan and other countries are getting ready to bring an end to ISIS. We need to save as many girls as possible as ISIS will use them as human shields or kill them. There are an estimated 3000 girls we need to save.”
“Can you please tell me some more about CYCI,” I changed the subject somewhat.
“CYCI is operating mainly by volunteers Sephardic Jews. As of recent we have a branch in German, CYCI Germany (https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Liberation-of-Christian-and-Yazidi-Children-of-Iraq-CYCI-Germany/124065521269317) operates by three members, one Christian, one Yazidi and one Jewish and they are helping us a great deal. My 22 year old daughter, Alexia a McGill University graduate, among other philanthropy work she performs, is also volunteering her time at CYCI,” Steve mentions with fatherly pride.
“I have been telling Jews around the world that in 1939-1945 the world watched on the side lines as 6 million Jews were exterminated by the Nazis and their collaborators. It took six years and millions of dead to realize that a human has to help another human. Then the world used the excuse that ‘we did not know.’ In 1939-1945, there were no computers, Internet and social media. Today, August 2015, the Yazidis, living primarily in the Nineveh Province of Iraq, a Kurdish religious community who formed a distinct and independent religious community and have their own culture, are experiencing genocide right in front of the world’s eyes. With cyber ingenuity ISIS is informing us, almost daily, what they do and why and there is no ‘we do not know’ excuse. There is no excuse for no action to help the Yazidis in Iraq. The majority of the world does not care again; the pattern of 1939-1945 is being repeated. It is there, far away, it is not me, it is the others.”
Then Steve went on with a clear message to the world:
“I, Steve Maman, will not stand idle in the face of such laxism. I am acting and I urge others who hear about my mission to join me and act, donate to CYCI and share with everyone. We have lives to save. Every dollar means life. We need to raise enough awareness to save 3000 girls being brutally raped, beaten and are underfed, and will be burnt alive for not wanting to submit themselves to be humiliate by their captors’ sexual acts. Join us, Act with us!”
As we were speaking Steve was notified that Gil Rosenberg, a Canadian-Israeli woman who became internationally known when she became the first female foreigner to join Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has joined CYCI and she is already on the ground in Iraq.
And my, the writer’s message to my fellow Jews, tell our stories, be proud, we have the key to make the world a much better place, no matter what the odds are. Steve Maman is one good attestation to this claim.