Texas Legislature Commemorates Holocaust at State Capitol
Austin, TX - Representative Joe Nixon, (R) Houston, and Senator Florence Shapiro, (R) Plano, hosted a Yom HaShoah ceremony on Tuesday, April 29, 2003 to officially observe a day of Holocaust remembrance at the Texas State Capitol for the first time. Resolutions in the House and Senate that day were followed by a commemoration ceremony on the front steps of the Capitol and a reception in the state’s Agriculture Museum. More than a hundred people attended, including survivors, their families and friends, liberators, representatives of the Texas Coalition for Holocaust Education, and various legislators.

“Today marks a historic day at the capitol,” Rep. Nixon stated. “I am so pleased to have worked with everyone involved to ensure that survivors and victims are properly honored and remembered for the struggles they have endured. We must never forget our duty to ensure that such horrors are never allowed to happen again.”

Both a survivor, Lea Weems of Houston, and a liberator, Jerry Scott of Dallas, spoke of their experiences and urged attendees to remember.

“I thank you for the opportunity to stand with you in grief and resolve on this historic day of remembrance,” said Weems to those gathered on the steps for the ceremony. “Now more than ever it is incumbent upon us to speak out about what we know can happen if brutal dictators are allowed to threaten our freedom with terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. I am reassured that my parents and the other millions of victims of the Holocaust did not die in vain, that their memory is being preserved with the help of this fantastic body, the 78th Legislature, and its adoption of today’s powerful resolution.”

Joined by Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, who presented awards to essay and art contest winners, Rep. Nixon and Sen. Shapiro both spoke of the importance of honoring Holocaust survivors and remembering the dangers of hatred and prejudice.

“We have a moral obligation to intervene when evil takes control,” Sen. Shapiro said. “I believe in the goodness of mankind and that people want to help when help is needed. And as a generation of Holocaust survivors diminishes in living numbers—my parents included—it becomes increasingly incumbent upon all of us to perpetuate their memory and the lessons of this unfathomable evil; and to understand the importance of the phrase, ‘Never Again.’”

Other legislators who attended the outdoor ceremony in support of Yom HaShoah included Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, (D) Austin; Senator Bob Deuell, (R) Mesquite; Sen. Rodney Ellis, (D) Houston; Sen. Craig Estes, (R) Wichita Falls; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., (D) Brownsville; Sen. Steve Ogden, (R) College Station; Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, (D) San Antonio; Sen. Judith Zaffirini, (D) Laredo; Rep. Steve Wolens, (D) Dallas; and Rep. Martha Wong, (R) Houston.

Yom HaShoah, which originally began in Israel in 1951, is now observed throughout the world. Services provide a time for Holocaust survivors, their families, their friends, and entire communities to remember the victims of Nazi hatred. Holocaust Remembrance Day is reserved for prayer, study and reflection and does not seek to answer the question of why, but simply asks that the community remember those who perished.

The commemoration in Austin was sponsored by The Texas Coalition for Holocaust Education. The group also sponsored a statewide Yom HaShoah art and writing contest in conjunction with the event. Entries were judged prior to April 29 and the winners were invited to attend the ceremony for recognition. First place in the middle school division of the writing contest went to Aaron Eisen, a 6th grader at Eubanks Intermediate School in Southlake, Texas. Placing second was 8th grader Elizabeth Drescher from the Round Top – Carmine School in La Grange, Texas. Third was Brooke Singer, a 7th grader at The Emery/Weiner School in Houston.

First place in the high school division of the writing contest went to Jason Boitnott, a junior at Cinco Ranch High School in Houston. Second place went to Kristin Kramer, a senior at Rider High School in Wichita Falls, Texas, and third place went to Donna Saa, a sophomore at Waltrip High School in Houston.

First place in the middle school division of the art contest went to Robbie Erickson, an 8th grader at Bradley Middle School in San Antonio. Second place went to Lealo Partsch, an 8th grader at Albright Middle School in Houston, and third place went to 6th grader Nicole Bernard of the Wilder Intermediate School in San Antonio. The winner of the high school division of the art contest was Trevor Monteiro, a senior at Naaman High School in Dallas. The works were displayed in the Central Gallery of the Capitol Extension.

The Texas Coalition for Holocaust Education is made up of The Dallas Holocaust Memorial Center, The El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center, The Holocaust Memorial of San Antonio, Holocaust Museum Houston, Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, North Texas/Oklahoma Region of the Anti-Defamation League, and the Southwest Region of the Anti-Defamation League.
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