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Author Elizabeth Bettina to Speak at Congregation Neve Shalom

Metuchen, NJ - Elizabeth Bettina, author of It Happened in Italy: Untold Stories of How the People of Italy Defied the Horrors of the Holocaust, will be speaking at Congregation Neve Shalom, 250 Grove Avenue, Metuchen on Tuesday, December 6 at 7:30 PM. A renowned speaker on the subject of the Holocaust in Italy, Bettina has lectured at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., as well as the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, International Holocaust Remembrance Week in Toronto, and many schools, synagogues, churches, libraries, and bookstores around the globe. Also, Bettina participated in the important 70th Commemoration of the Liberation of Auschwitz in January 2015. It is an honor to have this talented author share her insights at Congregation Neve Shalom.

This informational program, sponsored by the Metuchen-Edison Hadassah, begins with an Italian style (kosher) dinner at 6:30 PM for guests who would like to attend. The cost of the dinner is $20 per person if reservations are received by November 28. After that date, the price goes up to $25 per guest. For further information and to make reservations, e-mail sjt2325@yahoo.com.

The presentation by Elizabeth Bettina, scheduled to begin at 7:30, is open to the public free of charge.

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Bettina's presentation focuses on her non-fictional work, It Happened in Italy, which recounts the story of the thousands of Jews who survived the horrors of World War II due to the courageous efforts of their neighbors. Fortunately, there were citizens of the town who refused to let the Jews of Campagna succumb to the Nazi war machine. Bettina's quest to uncover this remarkable story began with her discovery of a photograph taken in 1940 of an orthodox rabbi in the village where her maternal grandparents had lived. The photo sparked her desire to learn how the Jews of Campagna, her grandparents' native home, had managed to survive the war.

In order to learn the truth, Bettina returned to Campagna, in the Campania region of Italy, where she had visited every summer of her childhood. But this time Bettina was on a mission to study the history of the internment camp which had existed in the village. Through meticulous research, Bettina discovered that the villagers had conspired to defy the Nazi occupiers and protected their Jews during the Holocaust. One by one, Bettina uncovered the stories of the courageous citizens who had put their lives on the line for the sake of humanity. She discovered that what the good people of Campagna did was something that had happened throughout Italy. Individuals had made a choice not to be bystanders, but to protect Jews from certain death at great risk to their own lives and the lives of their families.

While conducting research for her book, Bettina organized five trips for survivors of the war to return to Campagna and other parts of Italy to be reunited with their rescuers. She also requested and arranged for private audiences with Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI for those who were saved and those who helped to save them.

Bettina's presentation is a great lesson for children as well as adults in that it emphasizes the acts of kindness and humanity in a time when the world was dark and frightening. An inspirational and little known topic, how individuals stood heroically against the enemy of civilization, her presentation, concentrates on the importance of being an upstander against adversity, no matter what the consequences. Bettina's signature comment regarding her intensive study of the Holocaust is, “If you are not indifferent, things can be different.”

Bettina's true account of the Italian stand against the Nazis inspired the documentary film entitled My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes, narrated by Isabella Rossellini. Bettina was the co-consulting producer on the project, which opened at the Rome Film Festival in 2014. and is available for viewing on Netflix, Amazon, and PBS. The book, It Happened in Italy, published by Thomas Nelson in 2009.

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