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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Holocaust Museum Houston is free each Thursday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and on Memorial Day (May 30, 2016), D-Day (June 6, 2016), Kristallnacht (Nov. 9, 2016) and International Holocaust Remembrance Day (Jan. 27, 2016).