Join Our Community to Remember the Holocaust

Tags: Advocacy, Federation

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by Brooke Zelwin, Event Co-Chair

Every year, the Jewish Federation of Cleveland holds Yom Hashoah V'Hagvurah, a commemoration dedicated to remembering those who survived the Holocaust and those who perished. Rabbis and survivors from local synagogues carry Torah scrolls that survived the Holocaust, and the survivors and their families light candles in memory of the millions of Jews who were killed during the Shoah.

The Creative Arts Contest is an opportunity for local middle school and high school students to submit creative writing and visual arts pieces, and compete for cash prizes and the chance to be showcased at the annual event. The theme that was given to the students was “What Happened After.” The Creative Arts Committee wanted students to think about what it might have been like to emerge from the despair of the Holocaust and try to rebuild their lives in the post-Shoah world. Life in displaced persons camps, emigrating to America or Israel, and reuniting with family and/or grieving the family that was lost all factored into their artwork and prose.

Likewise, the individuals who were selected to light candles and tell their stories at this year’s event were chosen because of both their connection to the Holocaust and also their experiences reconstructing their lives after the war was over. As the generation of people who survived the horrors of the Holocaust pass away, we turn to the second generation of survivors – many of them children born into displaced persons camps to refugees whose stories they grew up hearing – who are now left with the responsibility of passing on the message, “never again.”

We remember the Holocaust because of our hope that the world will never go through that kind of genocide again. And because today’s youth will be the last to hear survivors speak in person, there is a renewed importance to find new ways to keep the stories of both the victims who perished during that time and the survivors who lived to create a new generation of Jewish voices alive.

One important lesson from the Holocaust is the tendency for hate to grow when it is unchecked. When we witness everyday acts of racism, bias or intolerance, it’s easy to turn our backs and walk away to avoid getting involved. Many did just that in Europe during the early days of Hitler, and that subtle bias was able to grow and thrive like a cancer. In the past year we have witnessed both the shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and the New Zealand mosque. Both were targeted acts of violence aimed at minorities deemed to be unworthy of life, whose devotion to their faith was the very thing that cost them their lives. What has been a bright spot in the darkness of both events was the way that leaders and congregants representing Christians, Jews, and Muslims have all stood up to speak out against this kind of hate and to support each other in their times of grief.

I hope you'll join our community at the Yom Hashoah V'Hagvurah commemoration on May 1 at B'nai Jeshurun Congregation. Register Now >>

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