On the weekend preceding the Yom Hashoa Community Holocaust Memorial at Kean University in Union on May 2, on the other side of the Central region — in Fanwood — another event in remembrance of the Holocaust will be held.
Temple Sholom of Fanwood/Scotch Plains will offer a free, two-part Yom Hashoa program, also open to the public, on Friday, April 29, and Sunday, May 1, the official Holocaust Remembrance Day. On Friday evening, a liberator, Richard J. Tisch of Chatham, will speak and show clips from Trail of the Rainbow, a documentary on the Rainbow Division, in which he served. On Sunday evening, Clara Kramer, a survivor who lives in Elizabeth — and who helped establish the annual event at Kean — will share her story of survival in Poland.
Leaders of the Reform temple said they came up with the idea after participants in a discussion expressed the desire to have a Yom Hashoa event in their area. They emphasized that all are welcome, regardless of religious affiliation.
Dr. Ann Saltzman of Fanwood, chair of the temple’s Yom Hashoa committee, is a professor of psychology at Drew University in Madison and director of its Center for Holocaust/Genocide Study. She said, “Remembrance/memory is an integral part of Jewish tradition. Yom Hashoa is a communal day of memory for the millions who have been lost.”
Marjorie Leffler of Westfield, a member of the temple’s board of trustees, is also a committee member. Hoping that parents will encourage their children to come to hear from these living witnesses, she said, “Our children are the last generation to get to hear live testimony,” she said.
On Friday evening, members of the public are invited to join congregants for hors d’oeuvres at 5:30 p.m. and Shabbat services at 6, followed by Tisch’s presentation at 7:30. It is a significant anniversary for him: As a 24-year-old United States serviceman, he participated in the liberation of Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945.
He will show excerpts from a film that includes footage of the liberation, and he will talk about the experience and how it has affected him. The organizers suggest “viewer discretion” for both the film and Tisch’s personal photo album.
On May 1, at 7 p.m., Kramer will describe how she and her family endured nearly two years hiding in a bunker beneath a house in her hometown, protected by the ethnic German family who lived there. Her diary was published as a book, Clara’s War: One Girl’s Story of Survival, in 2009.
Following her talk, the congregation’s student cantor Vicky Glikin will perform a liturgy she has compiled, accompanied by a quartet of cantorial students, with music by cellist Elizabeth Thompson, pianist David Deschamps, and violinist Rob Lowe. This liturgy was previewed at Hebrew Union College on Oct. 20 last year, and the May 1 performance will be its public premiere.
A candle lighting ceremony will commemorate those who perished during the Shoa, those who survived, and those who risked their lives to help others.
Saltzman, whose career has been focused on study of the interface between psychology and the Holocaust and who has been teaching Holocaust courses for more than 20 years, made the same point. In an e-mail, she said the temple’s confirmation class takes a culminating trip to Holocaust sites in Europe each spring around Yom HaShoa.
She wrote, “For that reason, in the past, there was not always a clergy-led Yom Hashoa program because the rabbi accompanies the confirmation group on its trip. Last year, for the first time in many years, a group of congregants organized to present a Yom Hashoa program at our congregation. The committee consists of people with varying motivations — some have children in religious school and feel it important that their children learn about the Holocaust through their religious organization before the confirmation year, some are educators (like myself) who have been involved with Holocaust education elsewhere, some have family who were lost during the Holocaust, and some represent the religious practices committee.”
The temple’s Yom Hashoa weekend is funded by the Nathanson Adult Education Fund and by donations by the Frier family in memory of parents Charlie and Anna Frier; Pauline Wolff in honor of Sidney Wolff; Helen Aron in memory of her father; and Ann Saltzman in memory of her relatives from Belarus who perished in the Shoa.
The temple’s leader, Rabbi Joel Abraham, said, “Temple Sholom has always had a strong commitment to remembering the Shoa.” He pointed out that members, including Saltzman and former temple president Luna Kaufman, were instrumental in creating the state-wide mandate for Holocaust education. “This commemoration,” Abraham continued, “grew organically out of that expertise, the interest and commitment of a strong committee, and the talent of our student cantor.”