05/02/2019

CJN Article: Yom Hashoah Commemoration at B'nai Jeshurun

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Roni Berenson lights one of the six candles at Yom Hashoah V'Hagvurah, Cleveland's commemoration of the Holocaust and Heroism, May 1 at B'nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike. CJN Photos/Jane Kaufman

Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News.

JANE KAUFMAN | STAFF REPORTER

In a muted and somber commemoration of the Holocaust brought palpably close by the shootings in Poway, California, April 27 close to 600 people attended a community wide Yom Hashoah service at B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike on May 1.

The two-hour service called Yom Hashoah V'Hagurah, coordinated by Kol Israel Foundation and the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, included a memorial candlelighting for the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, along with two additional candles for liberators and children lost in the Holocaust.

The stories of six survivors were read after they lit each of the six candles: Rose Gelbart, Tamas Muencz, Roni Berenson, Harry Zelwin, Miriam Wexberg and Samuel Burke.

The service opened with the presentation of the colors by the Jewish War Veterans of the United States, followed by the presentation of the Kol Israel Foundation flag. Cantor Aaron Shifman led the singing of the National Anthem, and as he did so, the veterans stopped in the aisle, turned to face the flag, and saluted.

Rabbis and a cantor from six synagogues brought Torahs that were rescued during the Holocaust to the ark in a procession that called to mind a rite of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

There was a moment of silence followed by the sounding of a siren.

Rabbi Stephen Weiss of B’nai Israel Congregation opened the program with remarks.

“We gather tonight with our hearts still ripped open by the horrific attack on the Chabad synagogue in Poway, in which Lori Gilbert Kaye was murdered,” he said. “Our hearts go out to Lori’s family, her husband and 22-year-old daughter, as well as to the victims who were wounded and their families, Noya Dahan, age 8, her uncle Almog Peretz, age 34, and Rabbi Yisroel Golstein, age 57.

“The attack in Poway came just six months after the Tree of Life massacre and serves as yet another brutal reminder to us that we as Jews face perhaps the greatest wave of hatred that we have experienced since the Shoah,” he said. “Globally, anti-Semitic incidents have tripled in the past year alone.

“Less than eight decades after the defeat of Hitler, in an eerie echo of the 1930s, anti-Semitism has taken root and is flourishing on both ends of the political spectrum, right and left,” he continued. “And yet there is a great tendency by non-Jews, and yes, even by Jews, to downplay the scope and significance of the hatred that we face today. The reality is that not one of us can say today that we feel politically secure and physically safe in America.”

Weiss spoke of the imperative to tell the story of the Holocaust.

“We must stand as witnesses to the barbarism that grew out of the hatred of the Jews and where it led.”

Israel Nitzan, deputy consul general of Israel, spoke as well.

“We’re committed to working together decisively, without compromise against this rapid disease threatening Jewish lives in so many places around the globe,” he said.

Ellen Jacob spoke about the lives and legacy of displaced persons and their children.

“Initially, there were few children under the age of 5 in the Displaced Persons camps and only 3% of the survivors were children and teenagers aged 6 to 17,” she said. “The birth rate exploded and by the end of 1946, nearly a thousand Jewish children were being born each month.”

Jacob said the Cleveland resettled 800 survivors, second to New York City. She called up 19 people who were born in displaced persons camps, whose children and grandchildren total 100.

Muriel Weber, vice president of the Kol Israel Foundation, spoke of the hope she has as Kol Israel broadens its educational offerings with the acquisition of Shaarey Tikvah’s Face to Face Holocaust education program.

Students Orly Einhorn of Beachwood High School and Michal Pollak of Fuchs Mizrachi School read their Creative Arts award-winning poems about the Holocaust.

Holocaust educators and children of survivors were asked to stand for recognition along with all survivors in attendance.

The service also included songs, including “Vliyerushalayim” composed by Vilem Zrzavy and by Cantor Larry Josefovitz with accompaniment on piano by Nelia Kamerman, and several songs performed by HaZamir Cleveland, including “Keshet Levanah” and “Mi Sehbeirach.”

HaZamir Cleveland also sung “Song of the Partisans” in memory of two survivors, Stanley Bernath and Leo Silberman, whom organizers called “giants,” who died died in recent months.

The service closed with the recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish led by Rabbi Hal Rudin-Luria, the Shifman’s chanting of El Malei Rachamim, the Memorial prayer, the singing of Hatikva, Israel’s National Anthem, and the recession of the colors by the Jewish War Veterans.


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