2014-10-15 / Home

Hundreds march to remember the Holocaust, support GHMEC

By JAYNE JACOVA FELD Voice staff


Members of Team Shelby gather at the Holocaust Memorial at the Jewish Community Campus after the March. They were (front, from left), Lauren Joyce, Ann Bussler, Shelby Pinette and Mya Venuti; with (middle row, from left), Marnie Joyce, MaryAnn Bussler, Andrew Rosenthal, Jordan Pinette, Freda Rosenthal and Ilyse Pinette; and (rear, from left), Rick Rosenthal and David Pinette. Members of Team Shelby gather at the Holocaust Memorial at the Jewish Community Campus after the March. They were (front, from left), Lauren Joyce, Ann Bussler, Shelby Pinette and Mya Venuti; with (middle row, from left), Marnie Joyce, MaryAnn Bussler, Andrew Rosenthal, Jordan Pinette, Freda Rosenthal and Ilyse Pinette; and (rear, from left), Rick Rosenthal and David Pinette. On a beautiful, crisp fall morning, 11-year-old Shelby Pinette, along with 18 of her family members and friends, walked through Cherry Hill streets to honor the memory of a young Polish girl who likely has no surviving relatives to remember her life and her death during the Holocaust.

“Basha Gruman was six when she died, but we don’t have a picture of her because she died so young,” explained Shelby, who will also light yahrzeit candles for the child she connected with through Remember Us, the Holocaust B’Nai Mitzvah Project, and include details of her life in her D’var Torah.


Welcoming keynote speaker Jeannie Smith (third from right) were (from left), Dr. Paul Winkler, executive director, NJ Commission on Holocaust Education; Norma Roth and Julia Roberts, co-chairs of the GHMEC March of Remembrance; Pastor David Cortner, Bethel Baptist Church; and Carol Orwitz, GHMEC Steering Committee chair. Welcoming keynote speaker Jeannie Smith (third from right) were (from left), Dr. Paul Winkler, executive director, NJ Commission on Holocaust Education; Norma Roth and Julia Roberts, co-chairs of the GHMEC March of Remembrance; Pastor David Cortner, Bethel Baptist Church; and Carol Orwitz, GHMEC Steering Committee chair. “Team Shelby” joined hundreds of other marchers, including those who came with cherished memories of dear ones who both survived and perished in the Holocaust and still others seeking to learn more about this dark chapter in modern history and to keep its lessons alive, at the Second Annual March of Remembrance.

The March, which started at Jewish Federation’s new building, 1721 Springdale Rd., took an indirect, scenic route to the Jewish Community Campus, where Jeannie Smith, the daughter of a Righteous Rescuer,” inspired a multi-generational crowd with the story of her heroic mother, a Polish Catholic who hid a dozen Jews in Poland at her own peril. Along the way, they were greeted by parishioners of Beth El Baptist Church, who held up placards expressing welcoming wishes to their new neighbors across Springdale Road as well as support for Israel and Holocaust education.

About a dozen Survivors participated in the Oct. 5 morning events, which raised money for the Goodwin Holocaust Museum & Education Center (GHMEC) of the Jewish Community Relations Council. A few of the Survivors, including Frances Neuman, led the march. The event was chaired by Julia Roberts and Norma Roth.

Although it was her first time participating in a local March of Remembrance, Neuman, 83, speaks often to students about her experiences here and in Florida. She is also an avid walker.

“It’s so nice to see younger generations getting involved,” she said.

Another empowering aspect, noted Helen Kirschbaum, director of the GHMEC, was that keynote speaker Jeannie Smith is a member of the generation once removed from the Holocaust, not as a Survivor but as the offspring of a gentile rescuer of Jews.

“It was clear that it is important not only for the children of Survivors to speak but also the children of Righteous Rescuers,” said Kirschbaum, adding that Smith spent the following week in New Jersey, booked on speaking engagements with high school and college students as well as other community members.

Smith, who resides in Washington State, captivated the crowd with the story of her mother, Irene Gut Opdyke, who single-handedly saved the lives of 12 Jewish men, women and children by hiding them in the home of a Nazi officer. The dramatic story, which has been chronicled in an autobiography entitled “In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer” and in a Broadway play entitled “Irena’s Vow,” ended with a message of hope and love.

“If my mom were here today, after hugging each and every one of you, she would tell you that one person can make a difference,” said Smith. “The power of one is so incredible.”

Gail Belfer, director of Senior Services at Samost JFCS and the child of Survivors, said recent occurrences of antisemitism are reminders of how important programs like the March are to raise awareness of the Holocaust and the danger of allowing hate to fester. She cited an article she read in the paper the morning of the march about a disturbing incident on the Emory University campus.

“As Jewish students awoke to swastikas on their fraternity house on Sunday morning, I was proud to participate with hundreds of others in our community, in the GHMEC’s March of Remembrance,” said Belfer. “It raises awareness within our community in the hopes of creating a greater network of support and to prevent hate crimes like this one from happening here.” .

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