Generations of families touched by the Holocaust are being invited to join in a statewide “celebration of survivors,” in West Windsor on Sunday, June 10.
The “Statewide Gathering of Generations of the Shoa” will be held at Mercer County Community College from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Paul Winkler, executive director of the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education, said he expects 300 people from all parts of New Jersey to be in attendance.
In addition to survivors, their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are encouraged to participate.
“We planned this program as a ‘passing the torch’ idea,” Winkler told NJ Jewish News in a May 10 phone interview. “The theme of the event is to generate activity among the generations of the Shoa toward continuing to tell the family’s Holocaust experience.”
Its main purpose, said Winkler, “is to inspire participants to learn about their own family experiences, to educate the future generations about the atrocities of the Holocaust and genocide, and share the need for tolerance and acceptance of all people.
“We wanted to have one statewide program so that these groups can gather more second- and third-generation support around the state.”
The program will begin in a room set up with tables marked with flags designating different countries. These will serve as gathering points for survivors from those places of origin and their families “so that they can meet old friends or new friends and their families,” said Winkler.
Michael Berenbaum, a rabbi and Holocaust historian, will be the day’s keynote speaker.
A former deputy director of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust, Berenbaum is project director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and director of its Holocaust Research Institute. He was a coproducer of One Survivor Remembers: The Gerda Weissmann Klein Story, which received an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, and a Cable Ace Award. He was the chief historical consultant for another Oscar-winning Shoa-themed documentary, The Last Days.
Second- and third-generation participants will exhibit films, writings, and other works of art telling the survivors’ stories.
For the young children in attendance, a storyteller will be on hand “to teach about bullying and bias and prejudice,” Winkler said. A social worker will be available “to discuss some of the issues that arise when living with someone who went through the trauma of genocide.”
Barbara Wind, director of the Holocaust Council of MetroWest, is organizing free buses to take local participants to the conference in West Windsor.
“It is a celebration of the survivors, and certainly the survivors in our community contribute so much to educating students and teachers about the Holocaust. Their generosity has helped build the major museums, such as Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, as well as the Kean University Holocaust Center” as well as the council’s memorial on the Aidekman campus in Whippany. “So much of what we do depends on them,” she said.
Wind said she hoped the gathering would encourage “more of the second and third generation to step up to the plate as survivors are no longer able to go to schools and speak. It is a very good thing that this is happening.”
In addition to the commission, event sponsors are New Jersey Generations of the Shoah Organizations, New Jersey Jewish Family Service Agencies, New Jersey Network of Holocaust/Genocide Centers, and Mercer County Community College.
People who wish to register or seek more information can contact Winkler at firstname.lastname@example.org.