JTA — Drawing a line from its mission of Holocaust remembrance to the ravages inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic, the March of the Living gave Anthony Fauci an award for “moral courage in medicine.”
The award to Fauci, who has for decades been the top US official handling infectious diseases, culminated in an online program on Wednesday, the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, called “Medicine and Morality.”
Brian Strom, the chancellor of Rutgers University, which joined the March of the Living, the Maimonides Institute for Medicine, Ethics and the Holocaust, and the Shoah Foundation in organizing the event, alluded to attacks on figures like Fauci from skeptics of the potency of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re very fortunate to have one guiding light throughout the pandemic,” Strom said. “In an era when public-spiritedness and confidence in the disciplines and methodologies of science were not held up as virtues of high esteem, Dr. Anthony Fauci embodied both.”
Fauci has faced a barrage of criticism from Republicans, including former US president Donald Trump, for his warnings about neglecting recommended public health practices, including mask-wearing and social distancing. Trump considered firing Fauci.
Fauci, who participated in the web event, in his remarks referred to Maimonides, the medieval Jewish scholar and physician.
“Maimonides reminded us that goodness and evil coexist, but that we are free to choose one over the other,” Fauci said. “I believe that the healing arts lie on the path of goodness, the same path, all of you have chosen in remembering and listening to the voices of those who perished in the Holocaust.”
The program broadcast on YouTube was one of several virtual events the March of the Living substituted during the pandemic for its annual educational program in Israel and Poland, which includes a three-kilometer march at the site of the Auschwitz death camp.
It included presentations by historians, physicians and philosophers describing the depredations of physicians who collaborated with the Nazis, and also the heroics of physicians who resisted the Nazi rise.
Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, one of the pharmaceutical companies manufacturing a coronavirus vaccine, described how his parents, Jews in Thessaloniki, survived the Holocaust.
“My parents talked about it a great deal,” he said. “They did this because they wanted us to remember. To remember the lives that were lost, to remember what can happen when the virus of evil is allowed to spread. But most importantly, to remember the value of a human life.”