More than 250 people attended the Yom Hashoa ceremony at the JCC of Greater Monmouth County in Deal to pay tribute to victims of the Holocaust — those who perished and those who survived.
In a unique twist, the May 1 event also recognized the humanitarian efforts of a New Jersey Jewish motorcycle club and the students of a school in the rural South who created a dramatic memorial to victims of the Shoa.
Officers of the 300-member Hillel’s Angels — which raises money each year for Holocaust remembrance — spoke about their Ride to Remember to the Whitwell Middle School in Tennessee. Its students had collected millions of paper clips and displayed them in a World War II-era cattle car to memorialize the victims of the Nazis. The project gained international attention and was the subject of the 2004 documentary Paper Clips.
Hillel’s Angels vice president Mike Reuveni of Paramus and secretary Larry Edelman of East Brunswick showed footage of the group’s arrival in Whitwell, where students and faculty gathered outside the school, cheering as each cyclist coasted in after the long journey from New Jersey. Hillel’s Angels presented the school with a $37,000 check for computers and teaching tools.
Highlighting the Ride to Remember was “an effective way to showcase how valuable it is for the next generation to learn about the Shoa, and what an impact they can have,” said Rabbi Cy Stanway of Temple Beth Miriam in Elberon, who cochaired the JCC event with Rabbi Brooks Susman of Congregation Kol Am in Freehold.
Rabbi Nasanayl Braun of Congregation Brothers of Israel in Elberon delivered a blessing to the seven Holocaust survivors who were honored: Anna Balaban of Fair Haven, Ellen Dorman of Manalapan, Victor Feldman of Freehold, Ron Isaacson of Jackson, Tina Weisz of Marlboro, Eva Wiener of Neptune, and Ruth Rosenfeld of Interlaken. Each, accompanied by family members, lit a memorial candle.
“Today we painfully remember the six million Jews who were murdered. But we also remember those who survived to live sanctified lives,” said Braun, adding, as he addressed the survivors, “May God give you the strength to live happy and healthy lives.”
‘Chain of remembrance’
Fair Haven resident Ronald Barabas attended the ceremony with his mother, Gizella, a survivor originally from Hungary. “Our family lost more than 70 people in the Holocaust,” he said. “We feel we have a responsibility to remember those in our family and others who passed away.”
Ann Goldman of Red Bank joined family and friends at the event “to stand in unison with the community. I believe in continuity. This is one way we can help maintain the chain of remembrance.”
“Sitting in the audience, watching survivors and their families come forward, raises the question of what could have been if all had survived,” said Stuart Abraham, president of Jewish Federation of Monmouth County.
The Asbury Park-Ocean Post 125 of the Jewish War Veterans offered the Presentation of the Colors. Members of Cub Scout Troup 613 led the gathering in “The Star Spangled Banner,” followed by Ruth Hyman of Long Branch singing “Hatikva.”
Cantor Marla Barugel of Congregation B’nai Israel in Rumson led members of the synagogue’s youth choir in song, and cellist Amy Garland Goldman of Ocean also performed.
The event made a meaningful impact on Rabbi Sally Priesand, religious leader emerita of Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls. “What touched me the most was watching the survivors come up to light candles with their families,” she told NJJN. “This emphasizes the importance of remembering, bearing witness, and testifying to those who come after us. It’s very important for Jews to come together as one community to observe moments like this, regardless of our differing backgrounds. The Nazis did not make distinctions between us, so neither should we.”