2017-05-10 / Local News

Community gathers to observe Yom Hashoa, Holocaust Memorial Day

By BARBARA S. ROTHSCHILD For the Voice


Survivors at the Community Yom Hashoa event were Irving Raab of Vineland (front), with (from left), Fred Stern of Cinnaminson, Ann Strauss of Voorhees, Frances Neuman of Cherry Hill, Terry Herskovits of Marlton, and Inge Bass of Evesham. Survivors at the Community Yom Hashoa event were Irving Raab of Vineland (front), with (from left), Fred Stern of Cinnaminson, Ann Strauss of Voorhees, Frances Neuman of Cherry Hill, Terry Herskovits of Marlton, and Inge Bass of Evesham. As Judy Wizmur retold the harrowing story of her mother’s survival during the Holocaust to hundreds of South Jerseyans gathered at Mount Laurel’s Adath Emanu-El for the recent Yom Hashoah Community Holocaust Observance, it was hard to listen— but impossible not to.

“The hallmark of our Judaism is that we hand down our memories. Memory is what shapes us,” said Mount Laurel resident Wizmur, a retired judge, as her mother, 92-year-old Terry Herskovits of Marlton, sat on the bima with Wizmur’s son, Matt. “I am honored to share my mother’s story with you.”

Wizmur told a tale of suffering and tragedy, but also of miracles that helped keep her mother alive, beginning in a small village in then-Czechoslovakia where Shabbat was faithfully observed and Herskovits was part of a large family. Her father hoped Terry could become secretary to the local rabbi, but when the Hungarians took over the area it caused a language barrier that made such dreams impossible. At 14, Terry followed her older sister to Budapest and met a dress designer who took her under her wing. When the Nazis reached Budapest in 1944, the women found a hiding place in a remote farmhouse and rejoiced prematurely when Russian soldiers appeared, only to learn the Nazis were still in charge.


Featured speakers Judy Wizmur of Mount Laurel and her mother, Terry Herskovits of Marlton. Featured speakers Judy Wizmur of Mount Laurel and her mother, Terry Herskovits of Marlton. Discovered, Terry was forced on a freight train to Auschwitz— but as the train pulled out, a young Hungarian guard taken by her beauty casually threw her off the train—“a miraculous moment of survival.” Terry managed to find Righteous Gentile Raoul Wallenberg, becoming one of the 100,000 Jews he saved in Budapest. They also were able to get papers for her dress designer friend and husband, moving to a safe house. More than once, Terry was shot at while out foraging for food, managing to survive yet again.


Survivor Ann Strauss, her daughter, Peggy David, and grandson, Rabbi Ben David of Adath Emanu-El in Mount Laurel. Survivor Ann Strauss, her daughter, Peggy David, and grandson, Rabbi Ben David of Adath Emanu-El in Mount Laurel. After the war, Terry learned that her parents, four siblings and their families were killed by the Nazis. Other siblings made their way to America, Israel and Brazil. Terry stayed in Hungary and married, but Stalin’s forces replaced the Nazis in Hungary and when her family—now including baby Judy and her toddler brother—tried to escape, they were sold out and Terry’s husband was murdered. Terry spent three years in prison. A year later, Terry met and married Judy’s adoptive father, Nathan, with whom she would later have another child. Then came 1956 and the Hungarian uprising.

“It allowed the opportunity to cross the border into freedom. Could she try again? Yes,” Wizmur said. “We walked all night through the mud, made it to the Austrian border, and came by ship to the United States. My mother remains the center of our family.”

Said Herskovits, “Let’s take this opportunity to thank all the wonderful people who did so much for me and all the Holocaust survivors. I had many tragedies in my life, but I never lost my faith.”

Like Herskovits’ descendants, other children and grandchildren keep alive their loved ones’ stories, telling them to schoolchildren and other groups. Since last year’s commemoration, 13 more elderly survivors in the local community— at least, those known—have passed away, said French native Charles Middleberg, 87, of Marlton, co-chair of the observance and a child survivor who recounts his own story to groups often. “We are proud of their resilience, their courage. Life must and can continue,” he said.

As the observance started on the evening of April 23, visitors stood as survivors entered to the plaintive sounds of violin and cello. Sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Esther Raab Holocaust Museum & Goodwin Education Center, the yearly event was being held for the first time at Mount Laurel’s Reform synagogue.

“We at Adath Emanu-El are honored to host this year’s Yom Hashoa commemoration. To have our sanctuary filled with song and with survivor testimonies means so much,” said Benjamin David, Adath’s senior rabbi. “As the grandson of survivors, I know that the messages of the Holocaust will speak to me always as a father and as a rabbi.”

David’s grandmother, 96- year-old Ann Strauss of Voorhees, was one of six Jewish Holocaust survivors accompanied by family members who helped them light candles in remembrance of those who perished. Along with Rabbi Ben David, Strauss was joined by daughter Peggy David of Cherry Hill, a co-chair of the observance, and her husband, second-generation member Rabbi Jerome David of Cherry Hill’s Temple Emanuel.

Strauss, who grew up in Nuremberg, was able to flee Germany with the help of a Jewish organization training young people to become agricultural workers in high demand worldwide. Many of her peers were not as fortunate and were sent to Auschwitz.

Others lighting candles on the bima besides Herskovits, accompanied by her daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter, grandson and his wife, included Frances Neuman of Cherry Hill, a Polish native and one of the youngest liberated from the camps at age 14. Neuman was accompanied by her children, Phil and Libby. Bigge, Germany, native Fred Stern of Cinnaminson, who sailed to America in 1938, at age nine, was at the ceremony with daughters Lauren and Julie and grandchildren Rachel and Noah; Inge Bass of Evesham, whose family was able to escape their native Germany in 1938 when Inge was six, attended with son Michael and two grandsons. Vineland resident Irving Raab, born into an affluent Polish family, spent the war years in the Russian military and returned to Poland after the war to learn his entire family had perished. He met his wife, Esther, in Berlin—only to end up as a Russian prisoner. After his release, he and Esther moved to Vineland and established a poultry farm. Esther, who became the subject of a play on the Holocaust, passed away in 2015. Her husband was joined by son Marvin, his wife and two daughters.

A seventh candle, lit by Lillian Halden of Mount Laurel, was in memory of the other five million victims of the Holocaust, including Gypsies, homosexuals and the disabled. Her Polish-born gentile father, Zygmunt Micko, was a Polish soldier captured by the Nazis and assigned to kitchen detail in camps such as Dachau, where he risked his life to sneak food to Jewish prisoners. Her mother, Maria Huber, a gentile in the Ukraine, was forced into Nazi slave labor and met Zygmunt at Dachau, where she helped him save lives Their daughter now teaches lessons of the Holocaust at Rosa International Middle School in Cherry Hill.

Peggy David noted that during the 2015-2016 school year alone, Raab/Goodwin Center speakers visited over 100 schools and reached 24,000 children in kindergarten to high school. The students came away not only with knowledge about an infamous period of history, but also were encouraged to speak out against intolerance targeting anyone perceived as different. She quoted from a Catholic school student identified as Caleb who wrote, “I have been tormented for no other reason than my race. It empowered me to see and hear your story.”

The ceremony included a pledge by the second and third generations of survivors led by Temple Beth Sholom’s Rabbi Micah Peltz, a third-generation member. Kaddish was led by Rabbi Jerome David. “They have left their lives to us. Let a million candles glow against the darkness of these unfinished lives,” Jerry David said. 

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