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  • Teaneck council approves Holocaust memorial
    The Teaneck town council has approved a proposal that would place a Holocaust memorial in Paul A. Volcker Municipal Green, the park in front of its town hall, along with a memorial to Africans enslaved in America. This marks the conclusion of three years of discussions with the town over the memorial. Earlier proposals would have placed the memorial in other public parks, and perhaps built a freestanding educational center. Now, with the space and scope of the memorial set, the hard work of raising money and building it can begin. The township provided for two 35-foot-square areas to be allocated to the each memorial, with more space designated for possible future memorials to other groups. Overall, the space between Teaneck Road and the municipal building will become a “Garden to Nurture Human Understanding.” “We will be looking for foundations and organizations who find the concept of a Holocaust memorial as well as a memorial for enslaved Africans on the same township green appealing,” Steve Fox said. Mr. Fox is co-chair of the Teaneck Holocaust Commemoration Committee subcommittee working on the memorial. Mr. Fox said he hopes to have fundraising materials available for the group’s Yom Hashoah commemoration at Teaneck High on May 4. He said the group hopes to break ground on the project next spring. First, it will set up an advisory board. “These will be members of the greater community who may be actual survivors, or second or third generation, or other people who feel strongly about what we are doing and can help in our fundraising effort,” he said. While the memorial will be in Teaneck, the committee sees it as serving as a regional center for remembering the Holocaust, and hopes to attract support from neighboring towns. “We will be offering individuals the opportunity to memorialize a family member or friend who was killed during the Shoah on the memorial tablets that will line the memorial,” he said. “We will also be looking into Jewish philanthropic organizations who value Holocaust remembrance and education to work with us.” There is not yet a fundraising target. But the more money is raised, Mr. Fox said, the more the committee can advance its educational mission. “We are looking at this as not just a memorial but as a mini museum. We’re going to have an entire educational process.” This may take the form of an interactive app that would provide information beyond that given on the panels planned for the memorial. The committee also hopes to arrange with the library to provide an indoor extension of the memorial, “perhaps housing different artifacts or screens for education purposes.” The group also is considering producing a video featuring interviews with local Holocaust survivors. “Not to do a 90 minute interview like you see in a Spielberg thing, but to ask each one a few questions and put them together in one presentation,” Mr. Fox said.

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  • Tears in Teaneck
    It was an emotional, bittersweet Teaneck Holocaust commemoration this year. Perhaps it was because long-time residents Arlene Duker, who lost her daughter to Arab terrorists many years ago, and Rabbi Johnny Krug, a son of survivors and dean of student life and welfare at Frisch High School, read the family names of those who were lost in the Shoah. Among them were Backenroth, Flanzbaum, Malca, Jacobowitz, Adler, Bacall, Goldberg, Greenwald, Morris, Kraar, Taffet, Lewkowitz, Weissler, Rosenberg, Hampel, Stern, and many other familiar names – all neighbors, all second generation, all families with decades-deep roots in Teaneck, tied together by the tragedies of the Shoah and the triumph of survival. Teaneckers have played an important role in shaping Holocaust education since 1979, so it was appropriate for Deborah Lipstadt, the keynote speaker, to talk about the Adolf Eichmann trial and the politics surrounding it. Earlier in the evening, she told The Jewish Standard that the trial 50 years ago gave the world a universal view of the Shoah, because for the first time, survivors gave testimony. As a rule, even during the Nuremburg Trials, they did not. She said, “They told the story like it wasn’t told before. Survivors had spoken, but were not listened to until then – and it made a big difference. It is poignant to talk about it as so many of them are dying, but I want to give voice to the survivors.” At the commemoration, she told the unvarnished story of Eichmann’s capture, explained a host of complicated issues surrounding the trial, and concluded by telling the audience about a Rwandan woman who met survivors at Yad Vashem and asked them to teach her. According to Lipstadt, she said, “I want people to listen to me the way they listen when Holocaust survivors speak.” Zalmen Mlotek, artistic director of the National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene, and his sons Elisha and Avram, also long time Teaneckers, sang Ghetto Tangos, songs from ghettos and forests, reflecting emotions from despair to resistance, from Nisht Kein Roszinkes, Nisht Kein Mandlen to the Partisaner Hymn. Steve Fox, the Holocaust Commemoration Committee co-chair, asked for two minutes of silence for the victims in Toulouse, France. Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin read the town council’s proclamation, and Rabbi Yaakov Neuberger of Beth Abraham read a psalm. The most emotional moments were those of the different candle lightings – the traditional multi-generational lighting, and something new: local high school students – third and fourth generation – who came to the stage with their own candles, and described the Shoah experience of the person for whom they were named. They were living proof of Jewish survival from generation to generation, and you could feel the audience inhale with pride. Sadly, there were far fewer survivors participating, as many of them have died in recent years, or are homebound. As ther numbers dwindle, Teaneckers at the commemoration seem to draw a little closer to one another as they, who are also aging, realize they are witness to the witnesses, and are the ones who authentically carry their parents’ memories. They are the torches of remembrance and teachers of the lessons learned from those terrible days. The service concluded with the recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish by Rabbi Yosef Adler, rabbi of Congregation Rinat Yisrael and head of school of the Torah Academy of Bergen County.

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  • Survivor Shares Her Story at Holocaust Commemoration
    Annual event at Teaneck High School featured Fanya Gottesfeld Heller. About 1,000 people came out Monday night to attend the Yom Hashoa Annual Holocaust Commemoration at and to listen to guest speaker and Holocaust survivor Fanya Gottesfeld Heller. Teaneck Holocaust Commemoration Committee member Amy Elfman said the yearly event always includes a keynote speaker who is a Holocaust survivor. She said it's becoming increasingly difficult each year to find someone because survivors are getting older and many are passing away. "We were fortunate to get Ms. Heller, who still does speaking engagements and happily consented to being with us," Elfman said. Bruce Prince, co-president of the Jewish Community Council of Teaneck and owner of the , thanked the crowd for attending the event, which marked its 29th year. "This event brings together more members of our community than any other single gathering," he said. "It demonstrates our collective resolve to stand together and to mourn together and to honor those who perished and preserve their memories." Guests in the audience included Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan and Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin. Hameeduddin read a proclamation from the Township Council to acknowledge the event. "We the people of the Township of Teaneck should actively rededicate ourselves to the principals of individual freedoms in a just society," said the mayor, reading excerpts from the proclamation. "In the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and in the honor of the survivors, as well as the rescuers and liberators, and further proclaim that we, as citizens of the Township of Teaneck, should strive to overcome intolerance and indifference through learning and remembrance." Heller shared her experiences of her and her family surviving Nazi death squads thanks to the family's own perseverance and the help of two Christian rescuers. Heller details all the harrowing accounts and the struggles through disease and hunger in her book Love in a World of Sorrow: A Teenage Girl's Holocaust Memoirs, for which the documentary was based. "I'm here because of victory of hope over despair, of light over darkness, of good deeds over evil," she said. She said things started to get bad in her village in Ukraine around 1942. She detailed her experiences in the years that followed. She said hunger came first, and it made people desperate. "Nobody wanted to think about us, nobody wanted to give us a piece of bread," she said. "We felt abandoned by people. All the neighbors – the Jews disappeared – and the neighbors didn't ask what happened to them." She said a Christian Polish peasant who knew her father took her family in, risking his life while trying to save theirs. "All his neighbors were Nazi collaborators," Heller said. The family stayed with the man for two years, living in the attic and the barn and even in a hole in the floor, which became necessary when neighbors became suspicious. Heller said everyone, including the Polish man, got typhus and lice. "I had so many lice my hair was moving," she said. When hope was starting to dwindle, Heller's father started to recite poetry to keep morale high. Heller said he disappeared during the liberation. Heller, her mother and little brother moved from country to country. Heller didn't find her way to America until 1960. "It was a very long journey, but it was the first time I felt free," said Heller, who added she studied at night to earn her degrees (a bachelor's and master's in psychology). She ended by urging those in attendance to teach the children about the Holocaust and to teach them to tolerate each other's differences. "In order to do good things, you have to do good for yourself. You have to better yourself, you have to be your brother's keeper because we never had any help from any country, from any government – we Jews took care of each other from the cradle to the grave," she said. "And then you have to live in peace. There's never enough love. No matter if you're Jewish or Christian or Muslim, there can be peace in this world." The night concluded with Yiddish Songs of the Holocaust, sung by Avram, Elisha and Zalmen Mlotek; the reading of the names of family members who perished in the Holocaust; and a candle lighting ceremony that featured survivors, their children and grandchildren.

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