The Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding warmly remembers the late Edward J. Piszek, a successful businessman and philanthropist who served on the Center's Board of Directors. Mr. Piszek passed away on March 27, 2004 at the age of 87.
In 1946, Mr. Piszek started a small frozen-foods business, which eventually became the worldwide Mrs. Paul's Kitchens, at its peak grossing $100 million per year. Mr. Piszek's business success enabled him to pursue his tremendous philanthropic goals, especially as a benefactor of Poland and Polish culture. Frozen food became not only his business, but the raw material for much of his philanthropy; he shipped millions of tons of food to Poland and Ukraine in the 1980s to alleviate the ravages of famines and the fallout from the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. In the 1960s, the medical equipment Piszek sent to Poland saved an estimated 200,000 lives from a tuberculosis epidemic. His cultural efforts included the construction of Poland's first Little League stadium, honors for the famous Polish astronomer Copernicus and his legacy, and programs to promote agricultural technology in Eastern Europe.
Mr. Piszek was also a personal friend of Pope John Paul II, whom he knew as Karol Wojtyla before the young Archbishop of Krakow was elected to the papacy. As a CCJU Board member, Mr. Piszek consistently provided the Center with ideas, challenges, and support, for which we are forever grateful. He believed in the Center's work of creating a better world through dialogue and reconciliation.
A major inspiration and promoter of the CCJU conference in Auschwitz in 1998, Religion and Violence, Religion and Peace, Mr. Piszek opened the conference by saying, “This is a great movement forward for Christians, Jews and Muslims, and all humanity. It inspires and motivates a person like me that what I believe in — peace among all peoples and religions — will one day occur. I think we have an opportunity to do great things.”
The CCJU will always be grateful to Ed for his support and humor as we continue to strive for the peaceful society that he envisioned.