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Welcome: This site is both a tribute to my mother and an avenue for information as to how her memory lives on through the sharing of her story. 

My mom's passion was reaching others with the message, "We are all part of one human family, and our brother's keeper."  Nowhere in time is this message more important. 
Her voice is still being heard!  "Stand up against hate in all forms - be willing to step up - speak out, and become actively involved. Give out love, compassion, and human decency to all."   Jeannie Smith

Upcoming Events  (if you're interested in attending any of these events please contact me)


Jan 7-9. Nashville, TN. - Herzlian Dinner Series

Jan 10th. Sarasota, Florida. Jewish Federation Lion of Judah Luncheon

March 3rd - Jewish Federation talk @ Am Yisrael Congregation. Chicago, Ill

March 28th. - Salem, Oregon. Oregon State Penitentiary 

April 16th. - Indianapolis, Indiana.  Jewish Federation

May 1 - Columbus Ohio. Board of Rabbis Holocaust Ceremony 


Jan 18th. Baylor Middle School. Chattanooga, TN

Jan. 18.  Chattanooga, TN. Jewish Federation Annual Meeting

Jan. 19th. East Hamilton High School, Chattanooga, TN

Jan. 26th: Hope and learning Center, Hockingson, WA.

Jan. 27-30: Buffalo, NY. - Holocaust Museum 

Feb. 11th Congregation Koi Ami. Vancouver, WA.

Feb. 28th - March 2nd: Phoenix, AZ. Educators Conference

March 6th- 8th: Cincinnati, OH. Student leadership Day

March 14th: New Heights Church, Vancouver, WA.

March 19-21: Israel Bonds, Chicago, Ill.

April 8 - 11th: Orangetown, NY. Holocaust Museum. Yom Ha'Shoah Commermoration

April 9th: Rockland, NY. Workshop: How Do We Teach These Stories.

April 11th: Stamford Jewish High School

April 11th: Stamford, CT.  Holocaust Commermoration

May 1st: Toronto, Ontario, Jewish Federation

May 1st: Glenforest Secondary School. Toronto, Canada

May 10th: Ft. Vancouver, High School. Vancouver, WA.

May 31st: Mt. View Middle School. Beaverton, Oregon.

June 1st.  Ilwako High School, Ilwako, Washington

July 27. Fort Lauderdale, FL.  National Young Leaders  Retreat

July 30-Aug 3:  Silverton, Oregon. Royal Family Kids Camp

Aug. 4th - Aug 10th:  Petersburg, Alaska. Bay of Pillars

Aug. 31st. - Sept. 3rd. Colorado Springs, Co. Air force Academy

Sept. 6th - Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit Philanthropy Event

Sept. 16th.  Montreal, Quebec.  Jewish Federation

Nov. 4th:  Vancouver, B.C. Jewish Federation Evening event


Jan 12th: Dallas, Texas - Jewish Federation, Pomegranate/Lion luncheon

Jan 18th: El Paso, Texas - Jewish Federation - Pacesetters Event

Jan 24: Cedar Sinai Park, Portland, OR. 

Jan 25-26: Writer's Conference, Longview, WA.

Feb. 25th: Miami, FL. Teen Education & Engagement, Advancement of Jewish Education

Feb. 26th- March 5th: Indiana State University, Terra Haute, Indiana.

March 6th: Suffern, NY, Rockland Community College

March 7th: Westchester County, NY. Community event

March 8th: Nayak, NY. Educators and 2nd generation presentation

April 20th: Ontario, Canada. Jewish Federation luncheon

April 23rd: Savannah, Georgia. Jewish Federation - Loin of Judah luncheon

April 25th-27th: Omaha, Nebraska. Holocaust Commemoration program

May 10th: Longview, WA. Nazarene Church

May 22nd: Portland State University

June 4th: Foss Home and Village; Seattle, WA.

June 26th-July 20th: Krakow, Poland - Candles museum tour group

July 30th - August 4th: Royal Family Kids Camp

Sept 1-3: - Denver, CO. USAF Academy

Sept 17:  River of Life Church; Cathlamet, WA.

Oct. 3rd: - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Jewish Federation Event

Oct. 4th: Westmoore High School, Oklahoma City

Oct. 5th: Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School, Oklahoma City

Oct. 11th: Chestnut Hill College: Philadelphia, PA.

Oct. 11th: Byun Athyn College: Philadelphia, PA.

Oct 23rd: Eisenhower School; Wyckoff, New Jersey - Three R's event

Oct 23rd: New Brunswick, New Jersey - Jewish Federation

Oct 29th: Glen Cove, New York. Congregation Tifereth Isreal.

Nov. 6-7th: Dallas, TX. Israel Bonds Women's Division luncheon.

Nov. 8-10: Hamilton, Canada. Jewish Federation, Kristallnacht Commemoration

Nov. 13-15: Victoria, BC. Educators training event

Dec. 3rd: Oak Point Community Church, Longview, WA.


Jan. 31st: Poipu, Kauai - Kauai Christian Fellowship

Jan, 31st: Breath of Life - Lihue, Kauai

Feb. 4th: Breath of Life - Lihue, Kauai

Feb. 7th: North Shore Kauai Christian Fellowship

Feb. 8th: Chiefess Middle School - Lihue, Kauai

Feb. 23rd: Austin, TX. Jewish Federation Lion of Judah luncheon

Feb. 23rd. Austin, TX Federation Pomegranates and Millennium group

Feb. 24th: Austin Jewish Academy

March 6th: Princeton, NJ. Congregation Adath Israel

March 7th: Princeton, NJ. Senior Program at Congregation Beth Chaim

March 7th:  Princeton/Mercer, New Jersey - Beth El Synagogue

March 8 - 10th: Greenwich, Ct. Jewish Federation

March 12th - 20th: Poland: Warsaw & Krakow Study Trip with NY Polish Cultural Institute

March 14th: Lauder-Morasha Junior High, Warsaw, Poland

March 15th: Jewish Community Center, Kracow, Poland

March 17th: Grand Opening of the Ulma Family Museum, Markowa, Poland

March 18th: University of Rzeszow talk, Poland

March 21st. Polish Cultural Institute New talk in New York

April 6th. Delaware. Jewish Federation

April 8th: David Douglas High School, Portland, OR.

April 18th: Congo Valley Chapter of the Brandeis National Committee, Los Angeles, CA.

May 5th: Virginia Beach, Jewish Federation 

May 13th: Longview, WA. Community Center

May 20th: Trillium Charter School, Portland, OR.

May 24th: St, Helens High School, Oregon Jewish Museum, Portland.

June 9th: Rochester, New York, Jewish Federation

June 14th: Chicago, IL. Jewish Federation

July 10th:  17th: Poland trip with the Indianapolis Candles Holocaust Museum

Oct 14-16:  Kent State University - Irena's Vow production

Oct. 20th: Kansas City, MO. Jewish Federation Lions Luncheon

Nov. 1st: Ottawa, Canada. Jewish Federation

Nov. 3rd: Philadelphia, Anti Defamation League

Nov. 10th: Miami Beach, FL. Kesher Judaic Day School fund raiser.

Nov. 20th: My Father's House Church, Longview, WA.


Jan. 14th: Charlotte, North Carolina. Lion of Judah Luncheon

Jan. 15th: Charlotte Latin School, NC. 8th grade assembly

Jan 15th: Providence Day School Students, NC.  School assembly

Jan 15th: Women's Philanthropy Event. NC. Jewish Community Center

March 10th - 11th:  Rockland Community College, New York

April 15th: Seattle, WA. Holocaust Center for Humanity

April 15th: Seattle, WA. Holocaust Remembrance Day Event 7:00 pm

April. 18th - 21st: Philadelphia PA. Annual Yom Ha'Shoah Ceremony Event

April 30th: Federation Women's Spring luncheon, Princeton, New Jersey

May 5th: Welches Oregon, Welches Middle school

May 13th: Women' Fellowship Luncheon, Longview, WA. community Church

May 27th - 29th: San Antonio, TX. Federation Lion Event Luncheon

July 27th: Virginia Beach, Virginia.  Holocaust Conference

Aug. 15th: Portland, OR. Concordia University

Aug. 29th - 31st: Candles Holocaust Museum and Education Center: Indianapolis, Indiana

Oct. 1st:  Buffalo, NY. Federation luncheon

Oct. 6th: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle, WA.

Oct. 14th: Atlanta, GA. Jewish Federation; Women's Philanthropy dinner

Oct. 22nd & 23rd. Victoria, BC. Holocaust Education Seminar

Nov. 2nd: Palm Beach, FL. Women's Philanthropy Opening Event, Jewish Federation

Nov. 8th: Seattle, WA. Beth Shalom Temple

Nov. 11th-13th: Houston, TX - Anti Defamation League Honor event


January 27th: University of Denver: Never Again

Feb. 11-13: Lincoln, England: Irena's Vow

Feb. 19-20: York, England: Irena's Vow

March 2nd: Tucson, AZ. Jewish Federation breakfast

March 3rd: Tucson Hebrew Academy

March 11th: Marian High School, South Bend, Indiana

March 12th: Saint Joseph's High School, South Bend, Indiana

March 13th: Bishop Dwenger High School, Fort Wayne, Indiana 

March 13th: University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, Indiana

March 14th: Bishop Luers High School, Fort Wayne, Indiana

April 3rd: Teach One to Lead One, Vancouver, WA

April 10th: Lower Columbia Genealogy Society. Longview, WA

April 16th: Monmouth, Western Oregon University 

April 17th: Woodland, WA. High School

April 22nd -24th: Garfield and Palouse, WA. Middle and High School, community event

April 27th: Chicago, IL. UGF Brunch, Beth Shalom Congregation

May 7th: Philadelphia, PA. Jewish Federation Event

May 8th: Rockland, NY, Jewish Federation Event

May 15th: Toronto, Canada. Jewish Federation Women's Installment Event

May 20th -22nd: Houston Texas - Anti Defamation League

June 16th: Montreal, Canada Federation - Top Women Donors

June 19th: Dayton, Ohio. Jewish Federation Dinner Event

Sept. 3rd: Darby, Montana High School

Sept. 13th: Greensboro, NC. Federation Event

Sept. 18th: Springfield, Ill, Top Donors Event

Oct. 1: Cleveland, Ohio Lion of Judah Dinner

Oct. 5th: Cherry Hill, NJ. Community March of Remembrance

Oct. 6th: Egg Harbor Township High School, New Jersey

Oct. 7th: College of St. Elizabeth, New Jersey

Oct. 8th: Bridgeton High School, New Jersey

Oct. 8th: Cumberland County College 

Oct. 15-18: Beaumont, Texas - Love Thy Neighbor Event

Oct. 27th: Wyckoff NJ. Eisenhower Middle School

Oct. 30th: Albany, NY. Fundraising Event, Jewish Federation

Nov. 3rd: South Palm Beach Jewish Federation

Nov. 4th - 9th: Poplar Ridge, Southern Cayuaga High School - Irena's Vow presentations

Nov. 14th: Rochester, WA. Community Event, Bookstore

Nov. 18th: Longview, WA. Retired Educators


Jan. 12th: Vancouver, WA. Forth Plain Church of the Nazarene

Jan. 15th: Tucson, AZ. International Jewish Film Festival event

Jan. 16th: Tucson, AZ. Campaign Kickoff - Jewish Federation

Jan. 25th: Ventura, CA. Women's Philanthropy luncheon

Feb. 7th: Jacksonville, FL. Women's Division luncheon

Feb. 8th: Jacksonville, FL. St. Giles Presbyterian Church and pot luck

Feb. 28th: Miami, Fl. Canadian Lions Luncheon

March 7th: Long Beach, CA. Jewish Federation campaign event

March 12th: Mission San Buenaventura, Ventura, CA.

March 12: Channel Islands, College. Camereo, CA.

March 13th:  FBI group - Los Angeles, CA.

March 19th: San Gabriel & Pomona, CA. Annual women's Forum

March 21st: St Helen's Oregon Public Library

March 28th: Probstel Church, Camas, Washington

April 4th:  Bainbridge Island, WA. Congregation Kol Shalom

April 5th: Woodenville, WA. Congregation Kol Ami

April 14th: Flint, MI, Community Holocaust Memorial, Jewish Federation

April 18th: Hillcrest Nazarene Church, Vancouver, WA.

April 25th: Mountain View High School. Vancouver, WA

April 26th: 55+ Christian Women's group. Vancouver, WA

May 2nd: Fort Vancouver High School. Vancouver, WA.

May 3rd: Prairie High School, Vancouver, WA.

May 6th: Simon Wiesenthal Center, Toronto, Canada

May 13th: Vancouver, Canada. Lion of Judah Event

May 17th: Zion's Camp. Belfair, WA. 

May 30th: Discover Middle School, Vancouver, WA.

July 26th: St. Anne's Feast Event. Los Angeles, CA.

Aug. 16th: Portland, OR: Embassy Suites downtown

Oct. 1st: Ottawa, Canada: Jewish Federation

Oct. 8th: Scarsdale, New York: Jewish Federation Opening Event brunch

Oct 8th: Cherry Hill, New Jersey: Federation Outreach dinner

Oct. 10th: Northern New Jersey: Lion of Judah Luncheon

Oct. 17th: San Francisco, CA.- Lion of Judah Luncheon

Oct. 22nd: Miami, FL. - Federation Opening Event

Oct 27th: Baltimore, MD: Jewish Federation Campaign Kickoff

Nov. 4th: Fort Wayne, IN. - Federation Campaign Opener

Nov. 14th: Spokane, WA. - Community event

Nov. 15th: Spokane, WA. - Teacher Seminar

Dec. 3rd: Greenwich, Connecticut Lion of Judah Breakfa

Irene Gut Opdyke - Rescuer
Jeannie Opdyke Smith - Speaker
"One Person Can Make a Difference!"
In many ways the story of my mother's life seems too unbelievable, even for even Hollywood. What was it about Irene Gut Opdyke that caused her to step out of the path of least resistance, getting involved when so many others did not? Was it her upbringing? Her faith? What gave her the courage and strength to do what she did?

As Irene's only child, I've been asked these questions for years. The truth is, my mother never sat me down to explain her reasons, yet the questions were answered by her actions, her deeds, and her day to day life. Mom lived out the two greatest commandments: to love the Lord God with all your heart, and to love your neighbor as yourself. 
The short simple answer is this; faith, forgiveness, and love!

My mother didn't think she had exceptional courage or strength. She believed God placed her in positions and circumstances for a reason... in turn, she put herself in His hands. My mother had a simple view of life, and she had a faith that carried and sustained her. She often said: "Courage is a whisper from above... If you think only with your head and not with your heart, your head will tell you "Dis is dangerous... don't do dat. You must involve your heart."  (Polish accent included)

The day before my mom passed away, she spoke of how grateful she was for her life and cherished each and every day. There was no regret, no bitterness, just gratitude. I could only marvel at her contentment and hope at the end of my life, I could say I'd run the race set before me and finished as well as she had.

With Much Love,
Janina (Jeannie) Opdyke Smit
​Please feel free to browse through this web-site.  I've included pictures, videos from the 2009 Broadway play, Irena's Vow, as well as interview videos with my mom that I often show at schools.
Below you will find a list of some of my upcoming speaking engagements where I'll be sharing my mother's story. I have also included a few comments I've received from people who have heard me speak.
I also plan to add pictures, bits of notes and letters I've received and other material that would be appropriate on this site. 
I will do my best to keep this site up to date and answer emails that are sent my way. Be patient as I do travel quite a bit.  Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in having me speak to your group or event.                                                                         Best contact email:              
Dear Jeannie

You have made me an instant celebrity. The phone calls and E-Mail are still coming in. Everybody felt it was the best Lion Of Judah event they ever went to. But needless, to say I owe it all to you. Jeannie what is extraordinary about you, is you speak from your heart. Your mother’s story is amazing in so many ways. Her bravery is what made her so unique and such an amazing woman. Palm Springs, CA.

The community is still abuzz, talking about how impressed they were with the moving way you tell your mother’s amazing story. So many people have told us that this event and the program presented were one of the best that they ever attended. Thank you for ensuring that our event was such a success. San Diego, CA.

The program this afternoon was absolutely wonderful. Thanks so much for your recommendation.  Jeannie Smith is an effective spokesperson: gentle, bright, engaging. Daytona Beach, FL.

Some comments and Feedback 
Please contact me for references
WOW! What a presentation about a very special person. I thought the manner in which you spoke about your mother's WWII experiences was both informative but very personal. When you mimicked her accent, Irene almost came alive. I had to keep reminding myself how young she was during this period of her life (afterall only about 4 years older than you were when you found out about this part of her life). She was wise and clever beyond her years. Thank you so very much for reminding us through Irene's story that one person can make a difference and unless the silent majority speaks up, similar events could repeat themselves. Your mother would be proud that you are continuing her mission. Vancouver, WA.
Jeannie Opdyke Smith

Above all, this is a story of choices: a story of ordinary people immersed in a living hell, who chose to keep faith with each other, their ideals, their country, and their God.

In a time when too many among us seek to avoid responsibility, here we find the story of a young woman who willingly took responsibility for herself and dozens of others. In a time when politicians conveniently twist "values education" to their own advantage, here we find the story of a woman whose religious and ethical heritage repeatedly demanded the best of her, even under the most dangerous of circumstances. Here we find a heroine on the order of Oscar Schindler or Raul Wallenburg. This life-affirming tale demonstrates that even under the most extreme circumstances, one righteous person can still change the world for the better. For that reason alone, this book is worth reading.

If you have been wounded too often, and have become just a little too cynical about the world, read this book. If you enjoy a thrilling adventure story, laced with romance, read this book. If you want to inspire a child (especially a girl) to greater moral courage, read this book with her. If you wish to remember that glimmers of light shone through the darkness that engulfed the world from 1939 to 1945, read this book.

I am so grateful for having read this book. It was deeply moving. I am a seventeen year old girl, as Irene was when the war began, and I cannot even imagine having to experience all of things she did....being raped, a mistress, etc. I admire this woman so much, her courage and determination are one in a billion. It's incomprehensible to know what she went through during those dreadful years, yet through it all her faith is what helped her to survive. I will never forget this book for as long as live...I've read so many books, and I have to admit that I think this one has truly moved me the most. I've read many Holocaust stories as well, but this had a profound effect on me. Please read this book--you'll gain not only a better insight of World War II and the Holocaust, but also how to appreciate life more and realize how much you take for granted.
This short book is one of the more remarkable books on the Holocaust I have ever read. It details the life of one seemingly ordinary nursing student, thrown into adversity, who demonstrates extraordinary courage and heroism and humanity responding to the needs of a group of Jewish prisoners in her care. Against extraordinary odds, she manages to harbor the group in the basement of a house occupied by a Wehrmacht officer for whom she serves as housekeeper. The book is an easy read, written in a warm and direct style, very personal, and at the same time very intense. Reading this book helps answer some of the eternal questions about the survival of humanity in Nazi-occupied Europe, and is a must-read for students of the subject.
In My Hands - Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer
 Knopf/Random House
Irene Gut Opdyke

Some reviews:
  An extraordinary display of heroism and courage in adversity.
More about Irene:

* The Israeli Holocaust Commission named Irene one of the Righteous among the Nations; a title given to those who risked their lives by hiding and saving Jews during the Holocaust. 
* She was presented with the Israel Medal of Honor, Israel’s highest tribute, in a ceremony at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.                     * The Vatican has also given Irene a special commendation.
* Irene's story is part of a permanent exhibit in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.                                                             * In 2008 Irene posthumously presented the Commanders Cross – the Polish medal of honor, given by the President and First Lady of Poland.
* In 2009 Irene was presented posthumously the Courage to Care award by the Anti- Defamation League in a special ceremony in Washington DC. 
Both of these awards were accepted by Irene’s only child – Jeannie Smith.
About Jeannie Smith:

Jeannie resides in Washington State with her husband, Gary. She is the mother of two incredible sons, and the grandmother of 4 beautiful grandchildren.

Jeannie is part of a new generation of Holocaust Speakers sharing life stories from their parent's first-hand experiences. 
She is a member and speaker for the Oregon & Washington Holocaust Speakers Bureau, a regular speaker for the Anti-Defamation League, as well as the Bearing Witness Program, and an international speaker for the Jewish Federation of North America.  In November 2015, Jeannie was one of the Honorees at the Anti Defamation Leagues, "Houston in Concert against Hate," where she was awarded a Civil Rights Metal.
She travels to schools, churches, camps, organizations, fund raising groups, and clubs throughout the United States, Canada, and the UK.

The story, although filled with the horrors and hate that the Holocaust holds, brings a message that faith, hope, and love can ultimately triumph over evil. It proclaims the conviction that one by one, we can say no to hatred, persecution, and prejudice. 
The story speaks to the power of love, and encourages the fact that, “One person can make a difference!”                                Love is the greatest weapon we have, Hate is easy, it takes real courage to Love.
Katy Carr: Mala Little Flower.  
On the top ten charts in Poland.  Thanks Katy!
** This song is dedicated to my mom at the end. Please feel free to listen and enjoy!

Hi Jeannie,

i am a songwriter from England with Polish roots and I have just released an album about the WW2 Polish Experience. I understand that one of your recent speakers from Jeannie Smith, whose mother was Irena Gut Opdyke. My song Mala little Flower which was released alongside my album on 17th Sept 2012 to commemorate the Soviet invasion of Poland was 'Song of the day,' on the very renowned Polish Radio Station 'Trojka' and this song has been inspired by Irena's story. My album will be released in Britain on 11th Nov. 

With Best wishes Katy

Mala little flower on Soundcloud

The drawings below were created by Jamie, of Woodland, Washington.
Thanks Jamie, these are awesome!
Left - right: Irene, Wadja, Bronia,Maria, Janina 
Irena's Vow

Irene's Wedding Day
Staring Tovah Feldshuh
Thank you does not seem adequate. I have NEVER been so inspired in all my life, Thank you for sharing your Mother's incredible story. Honestly if I didn't hear it I would have never believed something so tragic and wonderful at the same time could be true. I thank your mother for believing and I thank you for telling her story. It is necessary, important and no one could tell it as good as you. You were truly amazing. Your mother would be so proud of the remarkable woman you are. Thank you! thank you!
                 Dan Gordon and Linda Grey
   Irene with                                                        Roman Hallar   
 Actress         Tovah                 Feldshuh