Edited by: Fern Sidman
Now that Israel has duly impressed the world with their speed and efficiency in getting a vast majority of their citizenry inoculated with the Covid vaccine, we take pause to honor a very special man. This man’s company, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, helped develop the vaccine in record time as well as conduct clinical trials in less than a year. This unheard of accomplishment can be credited to the efforts of the dedicated people at Pfizer and its superlative CEO, Albert Bourla.
On the eve of the outbreak of World War II, some 60,000 Jews lived in the port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, sometimes known as the “Jerusalem of the Balkans.” It was considered the largest Sephardi community in Europe prior to the war. Great rabbinical figures lived there and the port was even closed on Shabbat.
Hitler stormed Greece to secure his southern wing before launching Operation Barbarossa and an offensive against Russia. Out of 60,000 Thessaloniki Jews, about 50,000 were exterminated in Birkenau in a very short time. This glorious community was instantly destroyed. Few survived.
Among those Jews in Thessaloniki who did survive this grotesque nightmare of Nazi persecution was the Bourla family. In October of 1961 a new member of the Bourla family was born and they named him Abraham. (Albert).
Growing up in Greece, Albert showed a strong interest in veterinary medicine. He holds a Ph.D. in the Biotechnology of Reproduction from the Veterinary School of Aristotle University. He left Greece with his wife when he was 34 and since then he has lived in seven different cities, in four different countries. He eventually arrived in the United States; married a Jewish woman named Miriam and had two children.
In the United States, Bourla has been integrated into the medical industry. He progressed very quickly and joined Pfizer in 1993 in the Animal Health Division as Technical Director of Greece. He held positions of increasing responsibility within Animal Health across Europe, before moving to Pfizer’s New York Global Headquarters in 2001. From there, Bourla went on to assume a succession of leadership roles within the Animal Health Division, including US Group Marketing Director (2001-2004), Vice President of Business Development and New Products Marketing (2004-2006), and Area President of Animal Health Europe, Africa and the Middle East (2006-2009). In 2009, he assumed additional responsibilities for the Asia and Pacific regions.
From January 2014 to January 2016, Bourla served as Group President of Pfizer’s Global Vaccines, Oncology, and Consumer Healthcare business, where he was instrumental in building a strong and competitive position in oncology and expanding the Company’s leadership in vaccines. He was appointed CEO of Pfizer in 2019.
Also in 2020, Bourla pushed for aggressive timelines in Pfizer’s development of a possible vaccine against COVID-19.
The vaccine project that will save the lives of billions of people around the world was led by a Jew; a son of Holocaust survivors from Thessaloniki. Bourla’s vaccine will also reach Germany, where tens of thousands of Germans have died from the corona plague.
The vaccine is also set to save the lives of tens of millions of Germans. Some are former Nazis, Nazis as well as their grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.
This man whose extended family was destroyed in the Holocaust now saves the families of those who destroyed his family ….
But the story does not end here. As we read every year in the Passover Haggada, the Jew haters rise up in every generation to destroy us. Tragically, they often succeed in their diabolical plot to eradicate any vestige of Jewish existence, whether it be from a spiritual or physical aspect.
A report was recently published in Greece’s Makeleio newspaper. Instead of covering Pfizer’s good news, the small paper zeroed in on Bourla’s Greek Jewish heritage.
The newspaper claimed that Bourla is evil and the vaccine that Pfizer is working on is actually deadly. The paper juxtaposed a photo of Bourla with that of Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele, who conducted gruesome experiments on Jewish prisoners. In case any readers missed the Holocaust reference, the paper included a picture of Nazi-era striped concentration camp uniforms. Albert Bourla wants to “stick the needle” into Greeks, delivering what the paper described as “poison” in the guise of a vaccine.
After receiving criticism for this bizarre anti-Semitic headline, Makeleio published another hate-filled article three days later, describing Bourla as a “Greek Jew” who was in thrall to a made-up, sinister-sounding “Israel Council”.
Despite the promulgation of this kind of toxic anti-Semitism and its attendant Jew hating canards, Pfizer and Bourla keep their steadfast commitment to saving all lives, irrespective of societies and cultures where past moral transgressions may exist. That posture in and of itself is living testimony to the sterling character and unwavering commitment to humanity that Bourla is emblematic of.
And that is why Israel is becoming the first country to receive the vaccine. In memory of Albert’s grandparents. In memory of his family. In memory of our family. In memory of the Jewish people who were wiped out in the Holocaust.
And now as you read this true and amazing story, think of how many “Bourla” families burned and went up in flames in the Birkenau crematoria, and all the extermination camps that contained all those six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.
How many professors, scientists, mathematicians and other talents could have saved this world from so many disasters that evil people brought into it, just like the Nazis during World War II.