For the past 36 years, the communities of Maplewood and South Orange have commemorated the Holocaust, combining interfaith involvement on a magnificent scale bringing both clergy and lay people together.
The program has been applauded by community leaders as well as religious figures. This has led to a better awareness of this monstrous tragedy that took the lives of millions. Both towns have combined the resources of remembrance in affording survivors, their families, and clergy the opportunity to speak out against the unspeakable memories of the Shoa. The service has welcomed people from towns near and distant to worship with us. The committee throughout the years has consisted of talented people of many faiths and walks of life, brought together with a mission to remember and tell.
What began as an attempt to merely memorialize the victims by Max Randall, a member of the South Mountain Lodge of B’nai B’rith; Rabbi Jehiel Orenstein, the rabbi of Beth El Congregation; and Sister Rose Thering has grown into a vehicle for a better understanding between members of every faith. The service location rotates annually between churches and synagogues. This year, for the first time, Seton Hall University hosted the service, observing the chai keynote to the 36-year anniversary. All of us who took part in the program — audience,clergy, and survivors — came away enriched, with a renewed commitment to the struggle. The university’s welcome was punctuated by the involvement of students and faculty who reached out to the audience with compassion.
The generosity of spirit that opened the sanctuaries of the community to the annual commemoration opened the hearts and minds of the children of all faiths. They were galvanized to think about the tragedy more personally by teachers and administrators.This resulted in examples of essays and visual art stimulated by survivor presentations. The creative capacities of children, so unified in thought, ensures genocide in any form in any country at any time will be anathema.
As we approach our 37th year, our committee is pledged to continue this work and is determined that the voices we have raised and nurtured will help to inspire the hearts and minds of all people. We pray that the awareness of prejudice and hate will, with God’s help, be turned into a feeling of brother- and sisterhood.