Over 1000 community members and special guests attended Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah, at the Pinelands Jewish Cemetery on 2 May.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the start of the war in Poland. The Holocaust started at 6 am on 1 September 1939, when Warsaw was struck by the first of a succession of bombing raids by the Nazi Luftwaffe air forces.
This year’s ceremony included extracts from the memoirs of Cape Town survivors describing the impact of the Nazi invasion of Poland. Zola Shulman, the daughter of two Lithuanian survivors performed a moving Yiddish song, Ich Nemk Aheim, written by her Uncle poet and song writer Leyb Rosenthal in the Vilna Ghetto and then sung there by her mother Chayela Rosenthal. Leyb died in a labour camp two days before liberation.
Our Special Guest was Miriam Lichterman, who spoke of the horrors she experienced in the six years she was held captive in the Warsaw Ghetto and concentration camps. She appealed to the youth to never forget the past and thanked the Jewish community for supporting her and her family in overcoming the horrors of their past.
Yom HaShoah is also a time to remember the Roma and Sinti, people with disabilities, Poles and Slavic ethnic groups, Soviet prisoners of war, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and persons who were targeted based on their sexual orientation by the Nazis and their collaborators. Holocaust Remembrance Day is about more than just remembering. With the number of Holocaust survivors dwindling it has become more important than ever to say ‘never again’
THE CHAIRMAN’S YOM HASHOAH ADDRESS
By Rael Kaimowitz
What are we here to do today?
What are we attempting to achieve?
Why over 70 years later, are we gathered together to remember a tragedy that many of us were not even born to witness?
Is it to provide comfort to those remaining precious survivors?
Is it in order that we can recite the communal kaddish in memory of our loved ones?
Is it a fixture on the calendar that we reluctantly feel, G-d forbid, obliged to attend?
Or is it to ensure that we remember, so the world never forgets?
We shout with great vigour… Never Again!
I fear this is mere lip service. The right thing to say.
Never again? No longer a guarantee… Easy to talk. Easy for passionate rhetoric but actions speak louder than words.
Since the horrors of the Shoah, world leaders have proclaimed loudly that the “Crime without a Name” as Winston Churchill referred to it must never be allowed to happen again.
But these are just empty words.
How else do we explain a world gone mad as hate explodes all around us?
Although we know that there is a unique, horrific depth and scale to the Holocaust that is unprecedented, when you hear the names of Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, Syria, you know full well that the world has failed dismally.
Not only failed to act but essentially failed to give a damn.
And therefore we are not foolish to think that any government or country or world body will come to our assistance should Never Again fail us, the Jewish people.
How lucky we are to have a Jewish state. How different things could have been.
Last year, 85-year-old Mireille Knoll, who survived the Holocaust, was murdered in her Paris flat.
The figures documenting rising antisemitism across Europe are frightening, with almost every country affected. In a survey conducted by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency it showed amongst those interviewed that:
28% experienced some form of harassment for being Jewish in the past 12 months;
Over 40% worry about antisemitic verbal insult, harassment or physical attack in the next 12 months
34% have avoided Jewish events because of safety fears
38% have considered emigrating in the past five years over safety fears.
Sobering statistics just 70 short years later.
In the last 6 months:
Pittsburgh, Christchurch, Sri Lanka.
And just this week Poway, California.
So when we stand here today on the 2nd May 2019, there must be more to it.
After 70 years the world has not learned its lesson. World bodies are ineffectual in providing clear, strong, moral leadership.
As the world turned its back on the Jews in the 1930’s, and again in those genocidal massacres I mentioned, it is our job to shine a light into the darkness.
As the second, third and fourth generations after the holocaust we dare not turn our backs on the suffering of others.
There is No place for antisemitism in the world today.
But let’s also stand up and say there is no place for islamophobia, or for the senseless murder of over 300 Christian worshippers in Sri Lanka.
There is no place for the baseless hatred of Jews.
But let’s also stand up and say there is no place for hatred of the LGBTQI community or for the Bahá’í or for the Hindu community.
These hatreds arise from the same dark human impulse, from the fear and suspicion and ignorance of the other.
So let’s not only pay lip service when we say no place for hate. Let’s call it out when we hear it, when we see it.
Be it around our own Shabbat tables, in the staff canteen, on Clifton beach or in the gym. Let’s take a personal stand.
Let us commit to telling our parents and grandparents, our friends and our colleagues that hate in any form is just not acceptable.
If we do this; then we ensure nobody has perished in vein.
Instead, we bring blessing and holiness and a continual upliftment to the 6 million holy souls of our brothers and sisters that were slaughtered al Kiddush Hashem.
And we take the first steps in saying with conviction that Never again means just that… Never Again… for anyone.
Am Yisrael Chai, The Jewish Nation Lives.
To visit the Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies website, click here