Residents of the Seabrook continuing-care retirement community in Tinton Falls prepared to commemorate Yom Hashoa, Holocaust Remembrance Day, by lighting battery-powered candles outside their unit doors.
The observance was planned to take place from sunset to sunset, April 6 to 7. Almost 500 candles were sold ahead of the event, and both Jews and non-Jews planned to do their part to memorialize the victims of the Shoa.
“We’re calling it ‘Let’s light up Seabrook,’” said Roselle Riki Kass.
Kass, 84, a former media-marketing specialist, is one of three major organizers of the effort, along with survivor Dora Lefkowitz, and Sheila Intner, professor emeritus at Boston’s Simmons College and a lecturer at Rutgers University. All are residents of Seabrook, which is owned and operated by Erickson Living of Baltimore, Md.
“All the units at Seabrook have shelves in the public hallways, next to the front door. We’re encouraging all the candle-lighters to place the candles on these shelves. This will ensure that the largest possible number of people will see them and be reminded of the tragedy of the Holocaust,” said Kass.
David Bowman, the retirement community’s pastoral ministries manager, estimated that 225 Jews live at Seabrook, roughly 15 percent of the residents. Kass noted that there are approximately 160 dues-paying members of the residence’s Jewish Community.
“The willingness of our residents to support this observance attests to the vibrancy of our Jewish community at Seabrook and their desire to not only remember the Holocaust but also to invite people of other faiths and traditions into a time of remembrance for all of our beloved deceased,” said Bowman, a Presbyterian minister,
“The most important goal of this Yom Hashoa project is to make sure people don’t forget what happened in Europe in the late 1930s and 1940s,” said Intner. “By remembering, perhaps we can help to prevent it from ever happening again.”
Lefkowitz, the only surviving member of her family, was interned in a concentration camp from May 5, 1942, until May 5, 1945, “three years to the day,” she recalled. She was also among only 500 of the 750 prisoners who survived a death march.
She later married, moved to the United States, and now has a son in Livingston, a daughter in Freehold, two granddaughters (one married), and two great-grandchildren.
For the second year in a row, Bloomfield-Cooper Jewish Chapels has donated the candles, each with the capacity to burn for 50 hours.
“We enjoy a close relationship with the people at Seabrook, and we are happy to support their efforts in the same way that we support many other local Jewish organizations,” said Albert Bloomfield, manager of the company’s Ocean branch.
In 2012, proceeds from the sale of the $2 candles went to the Seabrook Jewish Community to help support Friday evening services, as well as films and programs reflecting Jewish and interfaith interest.
“This year we lowered the price to $1 in order to make them even more affordable, and again we’ve had a sellout,” said Kass. “We’ve been thrilled to see residents of all faiths buying the candles to express their belief in the justice and rightness of honoring so many millions of victims.”
Kass praised Bowman for fostering “a warm, harmonious interfaith community in which all religious beliefs are honored and respected.”