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Event seeks to honor reticent Shoa survivors
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Event seeks to honor reticent Shoa survivors

Group reaches out in effort ‘to help keep memory alive’

At last year’s Yom Hashoa commemoration at Kean University, survivors and their families gathered for the annual candle-lighting ceremony.
At last year’s Yom Hashoa commemoration at Kean University, survivors and their families gathered for the annual candle-lighting ceremony.

The annual Yom Hashoa commemoration at Kean University commemorates those who were lost, and honors those who survived. For this year’s event, on Monday, April 12, the organizers want to reach out to include people who might not have been involved before.

Organizer Marcy Lazar said she knows there are people in the area who might have been reticent to speak about their wartime experiences, or simply haven’t been involved with the organized Jewish community.

“We want them to allow us to honor them,” said Lazar, who chairs the Yom Hashoa Memorial Committee. The annual commemoration at Kean is cohosted by the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey and the university’s Holocaust Resource Center.

She and her committee also want the help of those still in the shadows.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have a strong survivor community in this area — people who have been eager to educate the public, and to honor those who were lost. They have had a tremendous impact,” said Lazar, who is also a federation vice president. “But the circle of survivors — the people with their finger on the pulse of the community — is getting smaller. People have moved away, or grown too old to participate, or have passed away.

“We’re hoping to expand the roster of people who can help keep this memory alive, and involve the second generation.”

Each year, the program includes the lighting of six candles, representing the six million who perished in the Shoa. Survivors — and sometimes liberators — are invited to light those candles, and a relative or a friend relates what happened to them in the war. Having the survivors’ children and grandchildren participate adds joy to these events.

“It’s not always possible for them to be here if children are living far away, but seeing their descendants with the survivors — sometimes a big crowd of them — is the ultimate expression of victory,” Lazar said.

Each year, the focus has been on a different theme; for example, last year’s was resistance, and featured a special tribute to the Bielski Brigade. This year’s theme is life in the ghettoes.

Adina Abramov, the federation’s marketing and communications director, is handling the arrangements.

“We are finding that, with time passing, there are survivors who are becoming interested, and in many cases even passionate, about telling their story and bearing witness to the atrocities they experienced, while they can,” said Abramov.

Younger people are feeling that urgency too. “We also, as a generation whose identity has been largely shaped by our collective and often personal Holocaust experiences, feel a certain desperation to seek out every last survivor and learn all we can from them, sharing what we learn with our children and passing those lessons forward into the future,” Abramov said.

The next meeting of the Yom Hashoa Memorial Committee will be in early February. Anyone who is interested in joining the committee can contact Abramov at aabramov@jfedcnj.org or 908-889-5335, ext. 314.

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