Ex-Supreme Court justice Melcer to lead panel that selects Righteous Among Nations

Retired judge, whose father was rescued by Oskar Schindler and whose mother survived Auschwitz, calls appointment to Yad Vashem committee a ‘great honor’

Former Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer speaks at a press conference for media freedom in Israel, at Bar Ilan university, February 26, 2023 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Former Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer speaks at a press conference for media freedom in Israel, at Bar Ilan university, February 26, 2023 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Prof. Hanan Melcer, former deputy president of the High Court of Justice, was appointed chairman of the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem on Sunday.

During his five-year term, Melcer will lead the commission, which decides who will be awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations. The panel is made up of volunteer historians, academics, and Holocaust survivors, and the chair is always a former High Court justice.

The process for recognizing someone as a Righteous Among the Nations entails extensive research, and the final decision is made through a process similar to a trial with a jury.

With his appointment, Melcer took over from interim chairman former deputy president of the High Court Elyakim Rubinstein, who has filled the role since the previous chairman, Yaakov Turkel, passed away last year.

“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, Yosef Melcer, 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.”

Melcer, 72, was appointed a High Court justice in 2007 and served for 14 years before retiring in 2021. During his last four years in the position, he was the deputy chief justice.

The Righteous Among the Nations award is presented during a ceremony awarding late Egyptian doctor Mohamed Helmy with “Righteous Among the Nations” in Berlin, October 26, 2017. (Chen Leopold/Anna and the Egyptian Doctor)

To date, Yad Vashem’s commission has recognized over 28,000 individuals as Righteous Among the Nations.

The title is conferred on non-Jews who altruistically risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews in a variety of ways, from hiding them to helping them escape the countries where they would have been murdered by the Nazis.

People who are recognized as Righteous Among the Nations are awarded a medal and honorary Israeli citizenship. Their children and grandchildren are entitled to temporary residence visas.

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