Holocaust Victims Remembered at Yom HaShoah Service
Holocaust survivors, their families, and their friends gathered at Congregation Beth Yeshurun on April 28 in observance of Yom HaShoah, the international day of Holocaust remembrance. Almost 500 people attended the service, presented by Holocaust Museum Houston and 33 other co-sponsoring organizations and funded by The Morgan Family Endowment Fund. This year’s service, co-chaired by Holocaust survivor Lea Weems and Second Generation Pepi Joskowitz Nichols, focused on children during the Holocaust, with the title “Be Strong and Have Good Courage,” a biblical quote from Joshua 1:9.

“It was 60 years ago when we, as children, were embroiled in a horrific experience, the only reason for which was that we were Jewish,” said Weems, president of the Houston Council of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, during her opening comments. “When it was over, we peered through the ashes, finding that very few of us had survived. After many years, when life had resumed some normalcy, we resolved to carry through on a mission to tell the world what had happened to us and to our families, and, hopefully, to ensure that the demons of intolerance, bigotry, and anti-Semitism will never rise again.”

Both the Honorable Yael Ravia-Zadok, Consul General of Israel, and the Honorable Heiner Model, Consul General of Germany, attended the ceremony. Ravia-Zadock addressed the gathering and talked about the special day established by Israel in 1951.

“The Jewish homeland offers today shelter and the guarantee that Jews, wherever they are, cannot be persecuted,” she said. “Whether we are walking on the Earth or flying in a space shuttle in the heavens, the remembrance of the Holocaust, of the dreamers who did not survive to fulfill their dreams, is our legacy.”

The keynote speaker of the evening was Dr. Deborah Dwork, Rose Professor of Holocaust History and director of the Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. Her speech, entitled “Children With A Star,” focused on the devastating effects of the Holocaust on Jewish children.

“Tonight we remember the millions of Jews who perished in the Holocaust,” Dwork stated in her speech. “In particular, we remember the children, 90% of whom, nearly 1.5 million individual children, died.”

“When we remember the children, let us try to remember each child, each situation, each phase of this terrible life or horrific death during the Holocaust years,” she concluded. “The life stories of individual children…remind us why we remember.”

Holocaust survivors always play a key role in the remembrance service and several took part in the lighting of six Yahrzeit candles. Inge-Ruth Fletcher, Vera Hollo, Anna and Gregory Lefkowitz, William Orlin, Lottie Spinner, and Laure Wittner all lit candles accompanied by their friends, children, and grandchildren. As the candles were lit, students from the Robert M. Beren Academy, Bellaire High School, The Emery/Weiner School, Kinkaid School, and Young Judea recited the number of child Holocaust victims from each country in Europe.

The ceremony also included the reading of the Mourner’s Kaddish, as well as songs by the Houston Cantorial Association and several poetry readings by children from the Robert M. Beren Academy and The Emery/Weiner School. The Partisans’ Hymn and the Hatikvah served as the emotional and moving conclusion to the service.
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