By Daniel Bloch, Executive Director, Cape SAJBD
On Tuesday 18 April, more than 400 people gathered at the Pinelands Cemetery to commemorate the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust. The Yom Hashoah ceremony is a time when our community is unified in our Judaism and our fight against antisemtisim.
This year was the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and we are privileged to have a survivor from those awful times living in our community. At 101 years old, Ella Blumenthal is still sharing her experiences and spreading her message of hope, faith and forgiveness. The audience at the ceremony listened with rapt attention, whilst viewing the video of Ella in conversation with her daughter and granddaughter. Ella’s description of those events ensured that each person in the audience could almost feel the heat of the flames and smell the smoke of the raging fires.
Ella was followed by 2nd generation survivor Zola Shuman who delivered a riveting and moving account of what befell her Litvak family from the 1930s. Artists all, they never stopped creating, or loving, notwithstanding persecution, humiliation and murder.
The ceremony began as it does each year with the youth movements reading out the names of children who were murdered during the Holocaust. The Herzlia Vocal Ensemble, under the baton of Chazan Ivor Joffe, joined performer Beverley Chait in singing songs like Rozhinkes mit Mandlen and Hert zich Tzu. Dr Veronica Belling then read out a Yiddish poem entitled A Wagon full of Shoes and Isaac Habib ended the first part of the ceremony with a poem in Ladino entitled The Eternal Quest.
Members of the community then placed stones inscribed with the names of loved ones who had passed away around the Holocaust Memorial. Adrienne Jacobson, Chairperson of the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies, officially welcomed everyone and this was followed by Ella and Zola’s speeches.
“It has never been clearer that the seemingly simple act of remembering has strengthened our collective commitment to standing up against hate and building a more humane and just world, where people are treated with respect and dignity.” These were powerful words said by one of our community’s young leaders, Taya Allardice, Head Student of Herzlia.
The new Chairperson of the South African Zionist Federation, David Cohen, delivered a speech drafted by Israeli Ambassador, Eli Belotsercovsky, who could not join us for the service. Ex-servicemen and -women, representing various military and naval units, placed wreaths around the memorial whilst everyone stood for a few moments as the trumpeter played the Last Post and the Reveille. Cantor Joffe concluded the service with Kaddish and the singing of both the South African and Israeli national anthems.
We will never forget!
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