Steve Maman is a Canadian Jewish businessman who has made it his mission to rescue Christian and Yazidi girls from ISIS.
In August 2014, jihadists in Iraq captured thousands of women and girls, and forced them into sex slavery. They are raped by dozens of men every day.
Steve heard about this unspeakable tragedy, and instead of simply expressing outrage like most of us, he took action.
Steve formed a nonprofit foundation called the Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq (CYCI).
"What motivated me is being Jewish, being part of a people that survived the Holocaust. We waited for six years for people to come and help us,” Steve said.
So far Steve has raised over $500,000, mostly from Moroccan Jews like himself.
He put together a team of negotiators inside ISIS-held areas, who redeem the captives for $2000 to $4000 each.
As Rambam (the great Torah scholar Moses Maimonides) teaches, there is no greater mitzvah than redeeming captives, for the problems of the captive include hunger, thirst, lack of clothes, and danger of death. Ignoring the need to redeem captives violates these Torah laws: "Do not harden your heart or shut your hand against your needy fellow" (Deut 15:7), and "Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed" (Lev. 19:16). (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Matanot Aniyim 8:10)
Says Steve, "There are millions of inhabitants in Mosul and they're not all ISIS, so we, within those millions of people, have found teams that were willing to work with us in order to get those girls out."
Some have accused Steve of encouraging ISIS by making it profitable for them to kidnap girls.
Steve’s response: “ISIS is worth today $4 billion. Do you think that my little two or three thousand dollars per child is going to help the power and might of ISIS? You’d have to stand up and tell the 1,200 survivors saved by Oskar Schindler and their 15,000 descendants, that they were liberated unlawfully because Oskar Schindler gave money to the Nazis."
Thus far, Steve has rescued 128 girls from ISIS.
In a recent interview, Steve said, "May God bless my mission with world leaders being aware of what I do and of what can be done. The ones I wish to help are praying to God after every rape that he ends their pain and humiliation. It is reported they wish they be killed rather than live with such a fate. God give them the strength to hold on to life for a bit longer until I get to them, God willing.”
For embracing the Torah value of redeeming the captive, we honor Steve Maman as this week’s Thursday Hero at Accidental Talmudist.
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Learn more about CYCI at www.liberationiraq.com