The bill calling for a commemorative postage stamp to honor Varian Fry, a hero of the Holocaust who grew up in Ridgewood, had 13 cosponsors as of Tuesday night, including its first Republican, Rep. Scott Garrett (N.J.,5th Dist.).
Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J., 9th Dist.), the sponsor of the bill, told The Jewish Standard that he is "pleased with our growing list of cosponsors and I am hopeful that this will help persuade the postmaster general to issue" the stamp.
The Standard and the Pennsylvania-based David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies initiated the drive for the stamp to honor Fry, who helped an estimated ‘,000 people, many of them accomplished artists and intellectuals, escape from Vichy France. He also helped to save many others, including Isi Canner of Teaneck and Jeanette Berman of Saddle River.
Garrett wrote to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, just before Congress took its Fourth of July recess, "to express my heartfelt support for the petition to recognize the extraordinary efforts of Varian Fry in saving lives during the Holocaust . As the 100th anniversary of his birth approaches," on Oct. 15, ‘007, "now would be the best time to memorialize his actions with a postage stamp."
"In order to save these lives," Garrett noted in his letter, Fry "had to circumvent the Nazi, Vichy, and even American governments. While individuals who helped Fry in the United States have been recognized by U.S. stamps, his leadership in this effort has yet to be so honored . It is important that we let all Americans know what this brave man did for those who were destined for the concentration camps."
Sheila Isenberg, author of Fry’s biography "A Hero of Our Own" (Random House ‘001), said of the stamp drive, "It’s about time that the U.S. government honored its very own World War II hero and Holocaust rescuer."
Local interest in Fry was kindled by Ridgewood resident Catherine Taub, who convinced the library there to mount an exhibit about him some years ago. Also, as a result of her efforts, last year the village council dedicated a street, Varian Fry Way, in his honor, and the Varian Fry Humanitarian Scholarship, which she administers was created at’00;Ridgewood High School.
In October, according to Taub, the library will display Fry documents donated by his widow, Annette Riley Fry. Also, Taub said in a recent e-mail, "I am going to pursue the concept of Oct. 15 being designated Varian Fry Day (with a countdown to his 100th birthday)." And, she added, "the board of education may use the day to tell the story of Varian Fry’s involvement in the Holocaust, at the appropriate grade levels."
Garrett, whose district includes Ridgewood, joins Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J., 8th Dist.) as the only cosponsors of the bill to date from this state.
The others hail from across the United States. They are Reps. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz., 7th Dist.), Tom Lantos (D-Calif., 1’th Dist.), Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif., ‘9th Dist.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla., ‘3rd Dist.), Janice D. Schakowsky (D-Ill., 9th Dist.), James P. McGovern (D-Mass., 3rd Dist.), Brian Higgins (D-N.Y., ‘7 th Dist.), Major R. Owens (D-N.Y., 11th Dist.), Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y., 10th Dist.), Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio, 10th Dist.), and Jim McDermott (D-Wash., 7th Dist.).
The list is updated nightly. To track the bill and its cosponsors, go to http://thomas.loc.gov, then to the box titled "Search Bill Text." Click on the "bill number" circle. Type in H.Con.Res. 434 and hit "Search." Click on "Bill Summary and Status" and then on "Cosponsors.
To sign the petition, go to www.wymaninstitute.org.