The rededication of the Mercer County Holocaust/Genocide Resource Center was held on a solemn day of remembrance, Jan. 27, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp 65 years ago, and the UN’s International Day of Commemoration to honor victims of the Shoa.
The center’s new quarters at Mercer County Community College, in the Library Building on the West Windsor campus, will be more accessible to the hundreds of students and community members who come by to view its exhibits — including the current display, “The Holocaust and Genocide: The Betrayal of Humanity” — and make use of its materials.
A sacred reunion of sorts also took place at the event. The Princeton Jewish Center’s Rabbi Adam Feldman, who gave the opening benediction, brought with him a Torah scroll rescued from Holocaust-era Europe to join another scroll housed at the Holocaust/Genocide Center at Mercer — both with identical origins.
Prof. emeritus Saul Goldwasser, director of the Holocaust Center, said, “This was an extraordinary event because it was the reuniting of the two Torahs that were from the same Czechoslovak town, Susice.”
The scrolls were among some 1,600 preserved by the Memorial Scrolls Trust at Westminster Synagogue in London. The Nazis confiscated Jewish texts and ritual objects from throughout Czechoslovakia, intending them to be on display in a museum of the “exterminated race” in Prague. After the war, the trust distributed hundreds of Torah scrolls to Jewish communities throughout the world.
That two of those scrolls now serve congregations in nearby towns, said Goldwasser, is extraordinary. “These Torah scrolls, from the same town, are now in neighboring communities in New Jersey,” said Goldwasser. “Of the over 100 Jewish residents that lived in Susice prior to the Holocaust, only eight survived.” (Susice survivor Hana Gruna, now 92 and a resident of Hackettstown, he said, was present at the Holocaust Center’s Torah scroll rededication ceremony in 2007.)
Paul Winkler, executive director of the NJ Commission on Holocaust Education, thanked MCCC’s president, Dr. Patricia Donohue, for the wonderful new facilities at the college, and stressed to the 65 people in attendance the relevance of the lessons of the Holocaust in today’s world.
Cantor David Wisnia, who survived three years in Auschwitz — he was kept alive, he said, because the Germans liked his voice — concluded the rededication ceremonies with the “Partisans Song.” He was accompanied by music educator Dr. Tamara Freeman playing a 1935 viola that was saved by a non-Jew after the instrument’s owner was taken to the concentration camps.