LOS ANGELES, May 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Zane Buzby, founder and president of The Survivor Mitzvah Project, has been honored with the 2011 Local Hero Award by KCET and Union Bank. Conferred during Jewish American Heritage Month (May), the award recognizes individuals who are making an impact in their communities to enrich the lives of others.
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Zane Buzby has spent decades making people laugh as a successful performer turned television comedy director. But her life took a dramatic turn during a 2001 "roots" trip to Eastern Europe. Behind the "Iron Curtain" she connected with elderly Holocaust survivors in their eighties and nineties who were ill and alone, living in abject poverty. They were struggling to survive, lacking the means to buy even the most basic human necessities: food, medicine, heat and shelter. Shocked, Zane felt compelled to help. She and Professor Dovid Katz in Lithuania searched for other survivors in dire need. Her initial aid efforts served as the catalyst for the creation of "The Survivor Mitzvah Project." ("Mitzvah" means "good deed" in Hebrew.)
Partnering with Chic Wolk, a Los Angeles philanthropist, the SMP grew. In 2008, it became a 501c3 non-profit public charity that now helps over 1000 survivors monthly in seven countries in Eastern Europe. This grassroots organization is the only organization worldwide that provides direct and continuous financial aid to these last survivors of the Holocaust who receive no financial aid from any other organization. The Survivor Mitzvah Project is their only lifeline.
"I am honored by this recognition," said Buzby, "especially if it enables more people to find out about The Survivor Mitzvah Project. I have to believe that there are enough good people out there who will say, 'Yes, I will help'. There are still thousands and thousands of survivors living in horrific conditions, still waiting for aid. Time is of the essence."
Zane Buzby is a successful television director, producer, and committed humanitarian. She has directed over 200 episodes of network television including such hit comedies as "Golden Girls," "Newhart," and "Married…with Children." She has produced and directed television series and pilots for CBS, ABC, NBC, HBO, FOX, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, Universal Pictures, Disney, Comedy Central and Paramount Pictures.
Buzby began her professional career as a classically trained actor in New York. Discovered by Carl Reiner, she was cast in the feature films "Oh God," "Cheech & Chong's Up In Smoke" (as groupie Jade East), "Cracking Up" (opposite Jerry Lewis) and Rob Reiner's "This Is Spinal Tap" (as the hip Rolling Stone reporter).
Using her directorial skills and story-telling abilities, Ms. Buzby aspires to impart the history and the plight of these survivors to the local community, inspiring people young and old to participate in this urgent humanitarian effort. She has created The Survivor Mitzvah Project's educational archive of their life histories and Holocaust testimonies, as well as a book of their letters. Buzby is currently making a documentary, "FAMILY OF STRANGERS," about the survivors she visits on SMP's humanitarian aid expeditions.
"The real triumph for me is the discovery that one can dramatically change a person's life with a simple act of kindness...To have created a warm and loving family of strangers where before there was only isolation and hopelessness is endlessly gratifying. I believe that by helping these survivors we can write a more hopeful final chapter to the Holocaust, one of friendship, love and kindness."
The year-long Cultural Diversity Partnership will culminate in a gala event in October honoring 11 recipients for 2011.
More information at:
Video with Zane Buzby: http://youtu.be/5Rna8e4Fkco
Survivor Mitzvah Project www.survivormitzvah.org
Union Bank www.unionbank.com
Fran Simon 213-622-2022/800-905-6160 firstname.lastname@example.org
Public Relations: Flo Selfman 310-653-4555 email@example.com
SOURCE KCET; The Survivor Mitzvah Project