The Millburn-Short Hills Clergy Association will hold its first Interfaith Holocaust Commemoration on Yom Hashoa, April 11.
The association previously has held only one annual interfaith event for all its members — a Thanksgiving service — and members said they hoped the Holocaust remembrance program would become a regular event.
“I’ve been in town 20 years and we have not had an event in town like this, remembering the Holocaust, ever,” said the Rev. Dr. Johann Bosman, copresident of the association with Rabbi Steven Bayar of Congregation B’nai Israel in Millburn.
Speaking at a March 22 planning meeting at Community Congregational Church of Short Hills, where the commemoration will take place, Bosman, the church’s senior minister, said he had proposed the idea to his colleagues.
“This is an event we all should have a vested interest in,” said Bosman. “The generation of those who were victims and survivors are passing away. At some point in the near future, the last survivors will be gone. It’s very important for us to give the current generation an awareness.
“And we are trying to grasp toward not only remembering by the community, but to policies and attitudes that would preclude this kind of evil from ever happening again.”
Although no service like it has been held in Millburn-Short Hills, some neighboring communities have held them for years. (The towns of South Orange and Maplewood created an Interfaith Holocaust remembrance committee in 1978; those towns will hold their 33rd Annual Interfaith Holocaust Remembrance Service on Tuesday, April 13, at Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church in South Orange.)
The Millburn-Short Hills service will include a performance by an interfaith youth choir directed by Cantor Lorna Wallach of B’nai Israel, a presentation by a Holocaust survivor, remarks by representatives of participating congregations, and a candle-lighting ceremony.
“It’s a humbling experience and a privilege to have the opportunity to do this kind of service — where this is the primary memorial for Jewish congregations — in a church,” said the Rev. Lisa Green, rector of Christ Church in Short Hills. “The Easter season is a time when the temptation is to focus on hope and the future; the challenge is to be there in the presence of an unspeakable event and bear witness. To be in worship space together for that is really powerful.”
Cantor Howard Stahl of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills said, “Suffering, persecution, and distinguishing people because of their religious practice is not limited to Jews. It has affected Christians, Jews, and Muslims since the founding of each religion. It is always good to come together to invalidate suffering just because of one’s religious beliefs.”
In addition to B’nai Israel, B’nai Jeshurun, Christ Church, and Community Congregational Church, congregations participating in the Millburn-Short Hills Clergy Association include St. Rose of Lima Church in Short Hills and Wyoming Presbyterian Church and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, both in Millburn.