In a touching display of unity and hope, the annual citywide Remembrance Gathering in Observance of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day was held at Temple Emanu-El, on Sunday April 21, 2012.
The gathering, New York City’s largest and oldest commemoration was organized by The Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, The Warsaw Ghetto Resistance Organization, (WAGRO), and the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants.
With close to two thousand people in attendance, the program featured remarks by numerous dignitaries including Consul General of Israel in New York Ido Aharoni, Israeli MK Yossi Peled, Senator Charles Schumer, and Dr. David C. Marwell, Director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
Remarks were also delivered by Rita Lerner and Ann Oster, who co-chaired the event, Dr. Marcel Tuchman, a Holocaust Survivor, Stacey Saiontz, a granddaughter of Survivors, and Rabbi David M. Posner, senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-el
Consul General Ido Aharoni spoke about the eight days of Remembrance and Celebration that takes place after Passover each year. The eight days commence with the Commemoration of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day and continue with Yom Hazikaron, The Remembrance Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel, culminating with Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel Independence Day. This period carried great emotional significance for both Israel and Diaspora Jewry. It signifies the transition from remembrance and the pain of loss to joy and hope for the future.
Israeli Knesset Member and Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled, a Holocaust survivor, graced the gathering with the fascinating story of his past and how he came to become both an Israeli war hero and minister in the Israeli government.
Yossi Peled was born Josef Mendlevich in Poland. During WW II his family fled to Begium and his father entrusted him and his sister to a Catholic family. All of Yossi’s family, except his mother, perished in Auschwitz and after the war his mother reclaimed him. Peled related how he met his mother for the first time. How she was broken and looked so emaciated from the Holocaust and how she was determined to rebuild her life and the life of her son and make Aliya to what later became Israel with the assistance of the Jewish Brigade.
Peled served in the Israel Defense Forces for over 30 years. He served in both the Six Day War and The Yom Kippur War in command of the famed 205th Armored Brigade which moved from Jerusalem to the Golan Heights and fought against the Syrian Army.
His final position was commander of the IDF’s Northern Command which he held until 1991. After numerous business positions, Peled returned to government service within the Likud party and in 2009 he won fifteenth place on the Likud list and entered the Knesset to be appointed a member of Netanyahu’s government.
The gathering included very moving ceremonies including a memorial candle lighting by female Holocaust survivors and the lighting of six memorial candles by survivors of the Holocaust and their extended families. It was noted that the survivors were aging and that many are no longer alive. The remaining survivors, many with canes and walkers, were accompanied by their children grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Musical selections were delivered by the Temple Emanu-el Choir, Joyce Celnik Levine, coordinator and HaZamir, the International Jewish High School Choir, Matthew Lazar, Founder and Director. The selections included Ani Maamin, Eli Eli and the Jugendt Hymn. In addition, the El Male Rachamim was chanted by Cantor Joseph Malovany of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue, who also sang Moyshelech Shloymelech. The Musical portion of the Program ended with a joint singing by cantor Malovany, HaZamir and the audience of Zog Nit Keyn Mol, the Partisan Hymn.
In one of New Jersey’s largest Holocaust commemorations, over 1,100 people turned out on April 19 to remember those who perished as a result of the Nazi genocide. The annual gathering, which took place at Teaneck High School, marks the 32nd year that the event has been presented by the Teaneck Holocaust Commemoration Committee, a division of the Jewish Community Council of Teaneck.
On hand to issue a township proclamation, declaring April 15-22nd, Days of Remembrance in memory of those who died in the Holocaust was Teaneck Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin, who also offered his support for a project initiated by the committee to establish a permanent Holocaust memorial in the Teaneck area. Other dignitaries in attendance included Representative Bill Pascrell, State Senator Loretta Weinberg, Superintendent of Teaneck Schools Barbara Pinsack, Deputy Mayor, Adam Gussen and Township Council members including Elie Katz, Monica Honas and Yitz Stern, who was just appointed to the State Commission on Holocaust Education by Governor Chris Christie. A reception for Holocaust survivors and their families was held prior to the event.
Amy Elfman, vice president of the Jewish Community Council of Teaneck, welcomed the large crowd and stated that by coming to this event, they share in the purpose of keeping the memories alive of those who perished. Steve Fox, Co-chair of the Teaneck Holocaust Commemoration Committee, recalled how his late father, a Holocaust survivor who escaped the Warsaw Ghetto and became a fighter in the Russian Partisans, told him that despite losing his parents and relatives, he had the will to survive to tell his story and make sure that his family would have the normal life that his generation was deprived of. Fox told the holocaust survivors in attendance that his generation will never let the world forget the atrocities of the holocaust.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, a noted author, historian and professor of Jewish history at Emery University who spoke about the infamous trial of Adolf Eichmann who was the Nazis’ facilitator of the “Final Solution. He was charged with crimes against Jews and humanity and was the only man ever executed under Israeli law. It was the first time holocaust survivors testified one by one at a war crimes trial and told of the horror that they experienced during the holocaust. She said that the trial of Adolf Eichmann, whose capture in Argentina and subsequently trial was sanctioned by then Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, served as a showcase to the world of the crimes of the Nazi machine dedicated to destroying the Jewish people.
The evening included moving musical performances by Teaneck residents Meir Fox, who sang the national anthems of Israel and the United States, and by Zalman Mlotek, Artistic Director of the Folksbiene, National Yiddish Theater who along with his sons Elisha and Avram, performed Jewish songs, written during the Holocaust. Psalms were recited by Rabbi Yaakov Neuberger of Congregation Beth Abraham of Bergenfield.
The highlight of the evening came when 12 high school students from the Frisch School of Paramus and Maayanot and Torah Academy of Teaneck, who were named after Holocaust victims or survivors, each lit a candle and described who they were named after and what that person meant to them. They were followed by the reading of the family names of victims of the Holocaust whose descendants live in Teaneck, by Rabbi Dr. John Krug and Arline Duker, while 6 groups of candles were being lit by holocaust survivors, their children and grandchildren. Over 2000 victims of the holocaust have descendants in the Teaneck community. The program ended with the recitation of the traditional Kaddish prayer for the dead by Rabbi Yosef Adler of Congregation Rinat Yisrael in Teaneck.
In all, it was a meaningful, emotional and educational evening for those in attendance and served as a reminder that by remembering the horrors of the Holocaust, we can be vigilant to help ensure that nothing like it happens again.
Photos by Steve Fox