Yom Hashoah marked,
generation to generation
by Deborah Silverthorn
Special to DJW
At the 2003 citywide Yom Hashoah commemoration, held at Congregation Shearith Israel Monday evening, alongside more than 500 Dallasites who joined together to remember the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust, I sat one percent reporter and 99 percent daughter and granddaughter of survivors of the Holocaust -- watching.
Watching more than 60 survivors of the atrocities of the Holocaust hand lit memorial candles to members of the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization.
Watching survivors, the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of survivors stand tall and strong, lighting memorial candles and sharing tales of terror and of pain -- of strength and of hope.
Watching and wishing I were sitting with my mother, Barbara, and my Uncle Bert (who both live outside of Dallas), and my grandparents "Buzzy" Gittel and my Zeada Julius, of blessed memory. Watching as I sat with my daughter, Emily, who watched, who learned, who heard.
Master of ceremonies, Rabbi Aryeh Feigenbaum of Congregation Ohr HaTorah, spoke of the theme of the evening being " l'dor va dor - from generation to generation."
"What do we pass on?" he asked. "In the presence of so many who lived through the horror and the nightmare that is a difficult question but the message is that hatred and evil cannot be given a blind eye.
"Six million. We hear the number so often and yet it wasn't just six million. It was one Jew at a time, six million times. A brother, a sister, a mother, a father. Their memories won't be lost and they will go from generation to generation as long as we live with pride in who we are."
Mike Jacobs, a survivor and founder of the Dallas Holocaust Memorial Center, lit the first of seven large memorial candles. "I never gave up hope or belief. I promised that when I got free I'd share my story," said Jacobs, who speaks to almost 20,000 people each year.
"The Nazis came into our shul on erev Rosh Hashanah," he said, pausing. "They came in with their guns and were beating us. That was the beginning."
Jacobs was followed by members of the Donald, Scharf, Okowita, Glauben and Levin families who represented up to four generations of survivor relatives. Each family lit a candle and had a representative share thoughts and declarations to "never forget."
"We must remember what an indifferent world allowed to happen," said survivor Martin Donald. "We must remember courageous deeds of the righteous and to the end of our days we must remember them all."
With Doug Cotler's "Standing on the Shoulders," Temple Shalom's Cantor Don Croll sang, "Today my life is full of choice because a young man raised his voice, because a young girl took a chance I am freedom's inheritance. I'm standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before me."
Jeremy Scharf, who chaired the evening, spoke as the son of survivors. "We are the link that joins those who lived the Holocaust to future generations. We must teach that they tried to kill all the Jews, but couldn't. We must teach who died and who lived and we must teach that we can never forget."
Garry Okowita pledged as a second generation representative to "teach that a spirit can never be destroyed and that we indeed strive because of your perseverance."
In introducing the lullaby sung by many of the era of the Holocaust, Cantor Yaacov Cohen of Congregation Tiferet Israel spoke not "just" as a cantor but as the grandson of survivors. "Those who lived brought precious fragments of the lives they knew. Yiddish melodies such as this are those gifts." As Cohen sang the song with fervor and warmth, one could hear the voices of the survivors in the audience singing along.
"I stood in the gas chambers of Majdanek and recited the Mourner's Kaddish," said 17-year-old Sarah Glauben, who last year participated in a March of the Living trip that sends teens to Eastern European concentration camps. "I recited it in my grandfather Max's place, because he may never get the chance to return to that awful place where his family was stolen from him. I recited it for my grandfather's family to honor the memories of his mother and his younger brother who were murdered there. And I recited it for myself. As a means of closure to that which has plagued my mind for many years -- the puzzling knowledge that my ancestors, innocent of any crimes, were murdered because they were Jewish."
She stood there, she said, thinking of "the stories I had heard of ghetto life and I knew that I would have risked my life and been an integral part of this had I been born 50 years earlier."
"I could never imagine not being able to practice openly my religion. I learned about how the conditions they lived in were not fit for humans. The people in the ghetto are true heroes.They did what needed to be done, showed resistance when they could, but, most importantly held onto their faith."
Leo Laufer, a survivor, led the congregation in the Mourner's Kaddish for those "who were killed by torture and by suffering. The only crime of these people was that they were Jewish. Much of the world stood by as millions were killed."
Twelve-year-old Natalie Taub came to the program to support her grandfather, David, "who was just 15 years old during the war" and sent to four concentration camps before being liberated.
"I can't imagine living as a teenager then and not living as free as I do," she said.
The names of Taub's family were listed on a large screen that, throughout the evening, showed a running scroll of names of loved ones of Dallas families who were killed.
After the program, guests visited a student art exhibit, with photographs, drawings, paintings and written expressions, displayed in Kaplan Auditorium.
"This evening was about sharing from and to the generations," said Elliott Dlin, director of the Dallas Holocaust Memorial Center. "I am convinced by the representation of those who spoke so eloquently tonight that the history of our past is in good hand for the future."
"Z'chor -- remember" closed Feigenbaum. "Remember and never forget."
For more information on the Dallas Holocaust Memorial Center call (214) 750-4654 or visit its Web site at www.dallasholocaustmemorial
This story was published in the DallasJewishWeek
on: Thursday, May 1, 2003