Yom Hashoah Focuses on 80th Anniversary of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

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Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News

The Jewish Federation of Cleveland and Kol Israel Foundation’s Yom Hashoah commemoration will reflect on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising to mark the 80th anniversary of the 1943 act of Jewish resistance in German-occupied Poland.

To commemorate the Holocaust and heroism, the event will feature Holocaust educator and academic scholar Irving Berkowitz, candle lighting by Holocaust survivors and their families, the HaZamir Cleveland choir, the March of Generations, procession of Holocaust-era Torah scrolls and the Creative Arts Awards, following the theme of the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.


“(The uprising) is really a formative event in World War II history, in Jewish history, in Holocaust history, in human history,” Robert Rosen, a resident of Cleveland Heights and member of Jewish Family Experience in University Heights, told the Cleveland Jewish News March 29. “... It was a valiant fight, it was a doomed fight, but I think it represented some level of hope that there was a possibility for these people to escape the circumstances that they were in. I think it’s tragic and hopeful at the same time.”

Marilyn Zaas, event co-chair with Rosen, said a member of their committee brought the 80th anniversary to their attention during the planning process, and it was chosen as the theme for the commemoration and the art contest for sixth through 12th graders.

As the commemoration returned last year with limited in-person attendance and an option to join a livestream, this year will also follow the hybrid model.


“We’re really promoting for those who can to attend in person,” said Zaas, a resident of Solon and a member of Temple Emanu El in Orange. “I personally see the advantage of still offering it with a streaming option for those who cannot physically make it or it’s a hardship for them to make it in person for them, or out-of-town family to be able to experience along with their families.”

The candle lighters lighting the first six candles in memory of the 6 million Jews who died during the Holocaust will be Margot Luft-Baruch and her brother, Alfred Luft, Helen Marks, Alice Mendlovic, Judy Hersh, Eli Maher and Albert Hersh. The Hershes are brother-in-law and sister-in-law. A seventh candle to honor the liberators will be lit by Carla Newberry in honor of her father, Alan Silver.

The final candle will be lit to honor educators as Heights High School marks 50 years of Holocaust education. Mark Sack, Sol Factor, Abbie Nagler Sender and Adrienne Yelsky will light the eighth candle.

The procession of Holocaust-era Torah scrolls will include scrolls from Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, B’nai Jeshurun Congregation, Congregation Shaarey Tikvah, Oheb Zedek Cedar Sinai, Temple Israel Ner Tamid and The Temple-Tifereth Israel.


Berkowitz, the son of two Holocaust survivors and a native of Cleveland Heights, will share his insights, perspectives and expertise gained from more than four decades of research, scholarship and public speaking on the Holocaust. He is emeritus dean of academic affairs at Palm Beach State College in Florida and a scholar of the Holocaust and contemporary antisemitism.

As Berkowitz discusses the Holocaust and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, he said he hopes the audience will takeaway the importance of remembering the Holocaust and the events that led to it, the Jewish resistance during the Holocaust, and the survival and fight against hatred that continues today.

“Having lost my entire extended family and six million other members of my small tribe of 15 million in the whole world during one of humanity’s darkest epochs, I carry a Holocaust biography deep inside me,” he wrote in an April 4 email to the CJN. “By reaching and teaching as many people as I can about the Holocaust, antisemitism and the crime of genocide, the eternity of my people lives on in me.”

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